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Egypt arrests 29 Muslim Brotherhood members

Group says detentions to prevent Gaza rally

Egyptian police have detained 29 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Monday, including a prominent activist and two candidates for parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood said.

The group said, on its website, that the arrests were carried out to prevent the Islamist movement from carrying out a demonstration in support of Palestinians under blockade in the Gaza Strip.

Security forces arrested the members of the Islamist group in dawn raids on their homes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Sunday and among those taken was Ibrahim Zaafarani, Secretary General of Alexandria's Medical Union, a Brotherhood source said.

"They are accused of belonging to an illegal organization," the source told AFP, adding that "It is part of the arrests before the municipal elections."

The two candidates were Saad el-Sayed and Mahmoud Awad, who hope to compete in a parliamentary by-election for two vacant seats in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Mohamed Osama, a spokesman at the organization’s Cairo headquarters told Reuters.

The Brotherhood says a continued clampdown by the authorities is aimed at preventing its members from running in local elections in April.

Security sources said the Muslim Brotherhood members detained in Alexandria were attending two meetings preparing the group's campaign for local council elections next month. But Osama said they were taken from their homes.

The Interior Ministry media center said it had no information on the detentions.

The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt, but it holds more than a fifth of seats in Egypt's parliament though its representatives sit as "independents" because of its illegal status.

Traditionally controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party, the municipal polls are now expected to draw fierce competition after a constitutional amendment was passed in 2005.

The amendment requires independent presidential candidates to also secure the backing of municipal council members.