CAIRO — At least 23 people were killed and 31 injured in tribal clashes Friday in the southern Egyptian province of Aswan, according to official media.
The Egyptian army's chief spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali, said Saturday that military forces had been deployed in an attempt to restore order. The confrontations did not appear to have a political dimension, but the army nonetheless suggested, without immediately providing proof, that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood might have had some role in the bloodshed.
Reports said the fighting was triggered when students from a Nubian family sprayed slogans on walls denigrating members of an Arab clan.
The Arab tribe responded by shooting dead three Nubians on Friday afternoon. In retaliatory attacks by Nubians, at least a dozen Arabs were killed later in the day. According to eyewitnesses, at least 16 houses were torched, and the dead were left scattered in the neighborhood where the confrontations occurred.
Security officials speaking to the Associated Press said the motivation for the initial graffiti scrawling remains unknown. They said the Arab tribe, the Beni Helal, has been accused of playing a role in drug-smuggling to Egypt from across the Sudanese border.
There is little rule of law in southern Egypt, with clans wielding far more authority than the government. The Arab and Nubian clans have often clashed, but the confrontation was the deadliest in recent memory.
The Beni Hilal clan originated in the Arab Peninsula, and Nubians hail from northern Sudan and the south of Egypt.
Hassan is a special correspondent.