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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Egypt detains five in Muslim Brotherhood crackdown

CAIRO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces detained five members of the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday, security sources said, in the latest round-up of Islamist critics of the government.

Security sources said the five Brotherhood members were arrested on charges of belonging to an illegal organisation and possessing Muslim Brotherhood leaflets and documents.

The Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition movement, confirmed on its web site (www.ikhwanonline.com) that "a number" of members were detained.

The arrests were the latest in a campaign that has intensified since Islamist students at al-Azhar University angered the government in a protest march last month in which they wore militia-style uniforms and black balaclavas.

Security forces detained scores of Islamist students and the deputy leader of the Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shatir, following that protest. State media, in charges dismissed by the Brotherhood, said the march showed the group was training a militia.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said last week that the Brotherhood poses a threat to Egypt's security because the country would face international isolation should the Islamist movement become more powerful.

The Brotherhood said that those arrested on Sunday included Mohamed Ali Bashar, a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Office which acts as its executive, as well as Essam Hashish, an engineering professor at Cairo University.

While the Brotherhood is officially banned, members elected as independents hold 88 seats in the 454-seat lower house of parliament. The group says its aim is to persuade Egyptians through democratic means to choose an Islamic state.
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