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Will Egypt Slide into Civil War? Algeria Offers Some Clues

Egyptian security forces detain supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as they clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University on August 14
Egyptian security forces detain supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as they clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University on August 14Photograph by Mohammed Asad/AP Images

Sarah Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was in Egypt recently. In a meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated director of a business association, she mentioned her visits to another North African state—Algeria, where some 200,000 died in a decade-long civil war between Islamists and the military-backed government, a war that ended in 2002. The businessman was transfixed, says Chayes, and pressed her for all that she knew about that bloody episode in Algerian history.

The Algerian civil war looms large in the background as the struggle in Egypt between the armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood intensifies. On Wednesday, Aug. 14, Egyptian police and soldiers broke up the Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo and elsewhere, killing more than 150 protesters. A state of emergency has been declared. No one knows what comes next.