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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Egypt arrests Muslim Brotherhood leaders suspected of having ties to Hamas

CAIRO — Egypt has cracked down on its Islamic opposition said to be linked to Hamas.   

Egyptian police have targeted the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. On June 28, three leading members, including a senior union official, were arrested in the Cairo area.

In all, the Brotherhood said, six members were detained, one of them from the Guidance Council, Middle East Newsline reported. The detainee was identified as Abdul Moneim Abu Al Fotouh, the secretary-general of the Union of Arab Doctors.

"This is a major escalation by the authorities and a cause for concern," Brotherhood attorney Abdul Moneim Abdul Maqsoud said.

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The other Brotherhood members arrested were identified as Gamal Abdul Salam, head of the union's emergency relief committee and a businessman. Fathi Lasheen, a retired judge and former adviser of the Justice Ministry, and Abdul Rahman Al Gamal, said to be an educator, were also detained. Two parliamentarians were detained.

Abdul Salam was alleged to have been a leading Brotherhood link to Hamas. In December 2008, he was jailed for about eight weeks on charges of trying to form a jihad group linked to Hamas.

Brotherhood sources said the arrests reflected an Egyptian effort to block an international Brotherhood insurgency network linked to Hamas and Hizbullah. They said suspected Hamas and Hizbullah were also detained over the last year.

At the same time, a Cairo court ordered the release of 13 senior members of the Brotherhood. The men, including Guidance Council member Osama Nasser El Din, had been accused of laundering money to fund insurgency activities.

Egyptian security sources said the Brotherhood has been linked operationally to Hamas since at least 2003. They said Brotherhood operatives helped Hamas smuggle weapons from Sudan through Egypt and to the Gaza Strip.

The Brotherhood was alleged to have received 2.7 million euro from Hizbullah headquarters in Lebanon. The sources said the money was to finance Hizbullah-sponsored operations in Egypt, including weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip and military training for Hamas.

The Brotherhood said the security crackdown would not succeed and the opposition movement would continue with reform efforts. But the movement warned against a bloody period in Egypt.

"The arrests were conducted as part of a sacrifice to the Americans and the Zionists to ensure the continuation of the regime's grip on governance," the Brotherhood said.

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