CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian fishermen’s union is suing the government over an oil spill near the Red Sea coast, which it says polluted 17 islands off the coast, the union’s head said on Wednesday.

Officials in the Red Sea city of Hurghada said earlier last month that the spill had polluted areas along 20 kilometres of coastline, including several popular tourist spots.

Edward Adeeb, director of the Cooperative Water Resources Union, said the petroleum ministry should be held accountable for the spill and has asked Egypt’s general prosecutor to investigate.

“The polluted islands are 60 kilometres away from Hurghada shores and are badly polluted by the oil spill. We took pictures of the islands and sent them to the general prosecutor as evidence,” Adeeb said.

The petroleum ministry said last week the spill was not caused by any of the 188 oil platforms working in the area. Earlier it had said it was considering reducing the number of rigs in the Gulf of Suez because of the spill.

Hurghada, at the mouth of the gulf, draws millions of tourists to Egypt a year for its resorts and diving spots. Tourism accounts for about 11 per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product and is a vital source of jobs and foreign currency.