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Police arrest several Muslim Brotherhood members, sources say

From Ben Wedeman, CNN
  • Egyptian police seize leaders of Muslim Brotherhood, opposition group sources say
  • Muslim Brotherhood is banned because religious-based political organizations illegal
  • Organization 5,032 members arrested last year; most were later released

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Police have rounded up several prominent leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition movement, sources with the group said.

Brotherhood Deputy Leader Mahmoud Izzat, and two members of the group's leadership council -- Issam Al-Aryan and Abdelrahman Al-Barr -- were arrested around 1 a.m. Monday, the sources said.

Police also detained several provincial leaders of the group, they said.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry declined to comment.

The Muslim Brotherhood is banned because the Egyptian constitution deems religious-based political organizations illegal. The government allows it to operate but often cracks down on the group.

The organization's Web site says authorities arrested 5,032 members last year; most were later released.

In 2005, 88 candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood won seats in the People's Assembly in what was seen as a stunning victory for the group, giving it 20 percent of the seats in the largely powerless body.

Parliamentary elections are planned for later this year, and analysts believe the government is eager to weaken the group before campaigning begins.

In January, the Muslim Brotherhood elected 66-year old veterinarian Dr. Muhamed Badia as its new "General Guide," or leader. Badia is considered a conservative, who is hesitant to confront the regime of 81-year old President Hosni Mubarak.