Clashes between the Arab Hilayel clan and the Nubian Daboud clan in the tourist city broke out on Friday, and have so far left 23 dead and 40 injured, according to the city’s health officials.
The fighting continued throughout Friday and Saturday and renewed again on Sunday, with eyewitnesses describing members of the opposing tribes shooting at each other and burning cars and houses.
They also said they saw security forces withdrawing from the El-Sail El-Rifi area of the city where the clashes took place.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, an eyewitness requesting anonymity said: “The incidents were renewed yesterday [Saturday] after the withdrawal of the police from the El-Sail El-Rifi area, and senior families and senior public and security figures intensified their efforts to calm the situation down between the two parties in the dispute, and started visiting senior families and the Daboud and Bani Hilayel to persuade them to hand over the bodies of the victims to facilitate their burial.”
Mohamed Tawfiq, another eyewitness, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Aswan has become totally isolated now after members of the two tribes blocked the Aswan–Cairo main road at the entrance of the city, and they blocked the Corniche road and burned a number of vehicles, as well as the railways. The streets of Aswan have also become deserted as people are afraid of the violence.”
Local sources said rail services to and from the city have now been entirely suspended. The city’s university has also closed its doors to students for at least two days, the head of the university said.
In a sign of how serious the violence had become, interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and his interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, visited Aswan on Saturday to meet local leaders. Mahlab pledged to conduct a fact-finding mission to investigate how the violence started.
A senior official at the Aswan governorate requesting anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Aswan governor, Mustafa Yousri, had telephoned Mahlab asking him to impose a curfew on the entire governorate, a move the prime minister was considering, the source said.
Eyewitnesses also told Asharq Al-Awsat they saw military aircraft flying over Aswan on Sunday following the sound of gunfire in a number of areas in the city. They also said they saw police and armored vehicles around the city’s entrances and exits.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a security source who requested anonymity said the clashes were caused by an argument between students at a local college who belong to the two clans after an incident involving the harassment of a young girl. Following the incident, offensive graffiti was drawn on the school’s walls, which, the source said, led to the outbreak of violence among the students, eventually drawing in adult members of both clans.
Upper Egypt is an area of the country infamous for tribal feuding and vendettas that can cross generations and lead to years of fighting.
The fighting is the latest in a series of violent incidents that have plagued Egypt since the ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi. Protests against the military-backed government and clashes at universities, as well as fighting in the Sinai region and bombings and shootings across the country targeting security buildings and personnel, have all threatened to unhinge the country ahead of presidential elections on May 26–27.
On Sunday, lawyer and president of the Cairo-based Zamalek soccer club, Mortada Mansour, criticized the way the clashes had been handled, laying particular blame on interim President Adly Mansour. This came during a press conference in Cairo when he announced he would be running in the presidential elections, making him only the third candidate in the race alongside popular frontrunner Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and veteran left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
“I will run in the elections, and the main features of my program are to make Egypt strong and able to recover its status and prestige as a state, and to restore its status in the world,” he told reporters.
A controversial figure in Egypt, famous for his colorful and expletive-laden television appearances, Mansour attempted to run in the 2012 elections that brought Mursi to power, but was disqualified on a technicality.
During the press conference, Mansour attacked Washington, Doha and Ankara for what he said was their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Addis Ababa, over the controversial Renaissance Dam project, which has caused tensions with Cairo. He also said that if elected he would put the Camp David Agreement with Israel to a national referendum and institute a ban on alcoholic beverages as well as “anything which angers God.” He challenged both Sisi and Sabahi to a televised debate.