CAIRO (AFP) – At least 100 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood were arrested across Egypt on Friday less than 10 days ahead of legislative elections, a security official and organisation members said.
Between 100 and 120 Islamists were arrested in several towns, among them 20 people in Sharqiya province and 30 in Qalubya, the security official said on condition of anonymity.
Mohammed Mursi, a senior Brotherhood official, put the number of people arrested at around 300, among them at least 130 in the port of Alexandria, the country's second city in the north.
He said the arrests came during clashes when the security forces tried to break up gatherings of people backing Brotherhood candidates standing in the November 28 election.
'The regime is trying to terrorise citizens to make them stay away from the polling stations,' Mursi charged, adding that several people were hurt in the clashes, two seriously. One was in hospital, he said.
Mursi also said police had fired tear gas, but the security official did not confirm this and said that a policeman had been hurt in Sharqiya.
On Tuesday, before the latest spate of arrests, Mursi told AFP that the crackdown on members of the opposition Islamist group began when the Brotherhood on October 9 announced plans to field candidates for the polls.
He said this week that police had rounded up about 600 Muslim Brotherhood members ahead of the election and that some 250 were still being detained.
The group, which registers its candidates as independents to skirt a ban on religious parties, won a fifth of parliament's seats in the last election in 2005.
The Brotherhood is fielding about 135 candidates in the election, although the exact number remains uncertain as some candidates are contesting the election committee's decision to bar them from running, Mursi has said.
The ruling National Democratic Party is fielding about 800 candidates, and the liberal Wafd opposition party about 250 for the 508 seats up for election.
On Thursday, Egypt accused the United States of meddling in its affairs in an unusually harsh criticism after Washington called for foreign monitors in this month's election and also met with a group pressing for reform.
Cairo was particularly upset over a November 2 meeting in Washington between US President Barack Obama's national security advisers and a group of US foreign policy analysts who are pushing for reforms in Egypt.
Past elections in Egypt have been marred by violence and irregularities, and local rights groups say the vote has already been compromised by the arrests of many opposition activists.
The government has said it will allow local groups to send observers to polling stations.