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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Egypt arrests 7 in Muslim Brotherhood clampdown

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces arrested seven members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood north of the Egyptian capital on Wednesday in a widening crackdown on the country's largest opposition movement, the group said.

The arrests brought the number of Brotherhood members held in Egyptian jails to more than 270, most of them arrested over the past two months, a Brotherhood spokesman said.

Egyptian security sources said the men, local Brotherhood leaders in Beheira province, were charged with belonging to an illegal organization and possessing Brotherhood literature.

Egyptian authorities launch regular crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood, which operates openly despite being officially banned. Brotherhood members elected as independents hold 88 seats in the 454-member lower house of parliament, which is dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.

Some analysts say the government is preparing for a wider assault on the group after President
Hosni Mubarak said this month that the Brotherhood posed a threat to Egypt's security.

The government was also angered by a protest march at al-Azhar University last month in which Islamist students wore militia-style uniforms and black balaclavas. State media, in charges dismissed by the Brotherhood, have said the march showed the group was forming a militia.

Mubarak has also proposed constitutional amendments that include a ban on forming political parties based on religion. The Brotherhood says it wants to establish a civil, democratic party that is not exclusive to Muslims.
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