A bloody feud in Egypt's southern Aswan province between an Arab clan and a Nubian family has killed at least 23 people in two days of fighting, leaving bodies strewn on hospital floors and homes torched in its wake, government officials and witnesses said Saturday.
The feud started earlier this week over students from the two clans spraying graffiti on the walls of a local school. Nubian students accused members of the Arab clan of trying to destabilize the province by working for the former governments of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and overthrown Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, said Abdel-Sabbour Hassan, a Nubian activist.
Insults over honor followed, a security official said. The security official said there are tensions in the community with members of the Arab Beni Helal clan, as some of them are accused of being part of an arm and drugs smuggling ring. Aswan is a way station for a smuggling ring from Sudan. But it was not clear what sparked the graffiti.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists.
Members of the Arab Beni Hilal tribe first beat a Nubian and then shot dead three Nubians on Friday, including a woman, said Adel Abu Bakr, a Nubian resident of Aswan. Another Nubian was killed later that night, he said. Following their funerals, hundreds of Nubians attacked the Arab neighborhood, killing over a dozen people using mostly sticks and daggers, he said.
Health official Mohammed Azmi told private television station CBC that 23 people were killed and 12 are in critical condition. A local government statement said 31 were injured. Abu Bakr said a local Nubian community center was set on fire, and other witnesses said seven homes were torched. Ambulances failed to reach the neighborhood were the two clans live, leaving bodies strewn throughout the neighborhood.
Abu Bakr said the police failed to stem the violence and called for the army to intervene. The local governor also called Defense Minister Gen. Sedki Sobhi, urging deployment of military troops in the area.
"Since noon Friday, we are urging the police to intervene to separate between the two. But nothing happened," he said, adding that the police failed to deploy in the area. "Their presence would have changed the nature of this fight."
Attempts to negotiate an end to the fight were ongoing Saturday. A joint statement from the two clans accused "invisible hands" of igniting the feud.