ASWAN, EGYPT – Clashes between an Arab clan and a Nubian family resumed Sunday in Egypt’s south, killing two people and wounding four, health officials said, leaving the tourist city of Aswan on the edge despite a high-profile government effort to end the bloodshed.
The clashes, which began Friday, so far have claimed 25 lives. Gunfights spread beyond a residential area to outside the local hospital and morgue near the city’s center, a few kilometers from the tourist hotels and its commercial areas.
An angry mob from the Arab clan torched more new Nubian homes Sunday after collecting the bodies of their relatives to bury. The attack pushed armed Nubians into the streets, sparking pitched gun battles. Police struggled to break up the mob outside the hospital.
Residents complained of the inability of security forces to halt the vendetta violence. Nubians burned horse carts belonging to the Arab clan in protest.
A Nubian resident reached by telephone said gunmen from the Arab Haleyla clan had attacked his neighborhood on Aswan’s outskirts.
“We are dying. They are attacking us,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. “There is no government and no police in the area.”
The clashes came shortly after the local governor visited the area. An Associated Press photographer there said firefights broke out nearby, including outside the hospital and morgue. Authorities closed local schools and a university over fears of renewed violence.
In the city’s center, shops and bakeries were closed. Trains sat at the edge of town, trying to wait out the violence.
The bloody feud began after a fight between school students last week drew in adults, sparking the clashes that turned deadly Friday.
Police said the fight was over the harassment of a girl. Witnesses said offensive graffiti written on the school walls fueled the violence.
Security officials say members of the Arab clan are involved in smuggling arms and drugs. The fight took on a political overtone when the impoverished Arab clan accused the ethnic Nubians of supporting the military, while the Nubians say the Arabs back ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and are protected by officials loyal to longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Local leaders say police were mostly absent from the streets, causing the violence to spread. The governor appealed for the military to deploy troops there. On Sunday, a military official said more soldiers were heading to Aswan.
Egypt’s prime minister and the interior minister visited Aswan on Saturday to meet local leaders. Mahlab promised a fact-finding mission to investigate how the violence erupted. But vendettas, particularly over perceived violations of honor, are all too common in southern Egypt.
On Sunday, local official Mohammed Mostafa told private television station CBC that officials are considering emergency measures and possibly a curfew.
The violence in Egypt’s south adds to unrest plaguing the country since Morsi’s overthrow in July. Protests by Morsi supporters often devolve into violence and militants have launched a wave of attacks since his ouster. It also comes before May’s presidential election, in which the former powerful military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who removed Morsi, will run for office and is widely expected to win.
On Sunday, former presidential hopeful Mortada Mansour announced he would run for president. Mortada, widely considered a Mubarak loyalist and the head of renowned Egyptian soccer club Zamalek, was disqualified on a technicality before the 2012 poll that Morsi won.
Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi is also running in the election, scheduled for May 26 and 27.
Also Sunday, the brother of al-Qaida leader Ayman el-Zawahri, a native Egyptian, was referred to trial by the country’s top prosecutor along with 67 others on charges of forming and leading a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida and planning attacks. Mohammed el-Zawahri, arrested after Morsi’s ouster, had been freed from prison following the 2011 ouster of Mubarak. No trial date has been set.