Situation eases in Qena as officials move to contain tribal clashes

QENA — Two major tribes in the Upper Egyptian city of Qena have made a preliminary agreement to end a week-long feud after officials intervened to ask for order.

For the past week the city has seen the Ashraf and Homaidat tribes exchange gunfire, and at least 15 people have been injured.

The clashes erupted last Sunday when a microbus driver from the Ashraf tribe allegedly beat up a member of Homaidat. This incident developed into a full-scale confrontation between the tribes, who blocked roads and kidnapped members of the rival tribe. Regular and military police were seen securing the main entrances to the city but did not attempt to intervene.

Schools as well as shops were closed in the city due to fears that students from the rival tribes would attack each other.

But on Saturday life slowly was returning to normal as schools, the city's university, and government offices re-opened after security officials made assurances that the situation would not deteriorate again.

Adel Labib, governor of Qena, told state TV on Friday that he was mediating between the tribes' leaders in an attempt to set up a meeting and end the violence.

Ahmed Refaey from the Homaidat tribe has told Egypt Independent that the tribes agreed to stop exchanging fire. Similar confirmations were made by the Ashraf tribe.

Tribe members have asked the governor to compensate them for the shops destroyed during the clashes. Egypt Independent counted around 15 shops, restaurants and cafes — as well as vegetable and fruit stands — that had been completely destroyed.

On Friday, police presence had increased and scores of police trucks were deployed in Qena's streets. Police also put iron barricades in the main roads to separate the two tribes.

Qena residents spoke of nightly ordeals as tribe members fired live ammunition into the air.

Egypt Independent witnessed scores of families fleeing to nearby villages in fear that the situation would worsen.

Qena is famous for a strong tribal presence, but feuds tend to occur in surrounding villages rather than the city itself.

Sobhy Khodaire, a resident, told Egypt Independent that these unprecedented tribal clashes will recur due to the proliferation of weapons in the city.

Some local commentators say that after the Libyan revolution and in the nationwide security vacuum that followed the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, there has been an influx of weapons into Qena.

During this week's clashes, angry crowds from each side were seen carrying numerous automatic guns in the street in broad daylight.

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