Egypt saw an outbreak of tribal war in the Southern Aswan province that has so far left 25 people dead. The fighting, which has been ongoing since Friday, left homes smoldering as the dead piled up in the streets during the two days of fighting. The dead were later taken to Aswan General Hospital where they lined the blood stained floors.
The conflict may have begun after young members of an Arab tribe, the Beni Hilals, attacked a female from the Nubian Daboudia tribe. The Nubian students then spray painted derogatory remarks on the walls of a local school in retaliation. This prompted students from the Arab tribe to do the same, and the conflict escalated from there.
The Nubian students knew how to anger the Arabs. Their spray painted remarks accused the Arabs of destabilizing the province and working for former President Hosni Mubarek. The Nubians also accused the Arabs of supporting overthrown Islamist President Mohammad Morsi.
Vendetta killings are said to be common in the Aswan region. One spectator says that the incident began when members of the Beni Hilal clan severely beat one Nubian and shot three dead afterwards. One of the dead Nubians was a woman. When the incident became widely known, hundreds of Nubians attacked Arab neighborhoods in retaliation. Over 12 people were killed during the retaliation with rocks, sticks, and daggers.
Dr. Mohammed Azmi told CBC television that 23 people had been killed during the initial fighting, and 12 were in critical condition. The government reported 31 injuries in total. The government statement also said that seven homes and a Nubian community center were set on fire. Ambulances were not able to reach the neighborhoods in time, and bodies piled up in the streets. The tribal war in Egypt would continue, and eventually left 25 people dead with even more wounded.
Spectators have commented on a curious lack of Police presence during the fighting. One man, Abu Bakr, said the police did little more than attempt to call in the army. Bakr asked the police to intervene, but the police were ineffective. The police arrested three people on Friday, but the fighting continued undeterred on Saturday.
There are some differing opinions about the reasons for the continuation of intense violence. Security officials told the Associated Press that the Beni Hilal Arabs may have been smuggling drugs into Egypt from the Sudan. The two warring clans issued a joint statement that “invisible hands” had ignited the tribal war. Military leader Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali says that members of the Muslim Brotherhood group may have attempted to start the war, but no proof has yet been offered. Little has been said about the graffiti incident and the harassed girl since the start of the conflict.
On Sunday, the attacks continued. An additional body was found, and one more person was murdered. Another 10 people were also injured as the fighting pressed on. While members of the Beni Hilal tribe were taking their dead members from the Aswan General Hospital’s morgue, one of their homes was set on fire.
The government has taken notice. Railway travel has been halted between Cairo and Aswan, and the continuation of the tribal war in Egypt has left 25 people dead and more than 40 wounded thus far. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab went to Aswan in order to meet with the tribal leaders on Saturday, and now he has ordered a full investigation of the incident.
By Luke Sargent