CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested Saturday after police fired tear gas at hundreds of worshippers in a northern Nile Delta city shortly before prayers celebrating the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, police and group’s Web site reported.
The clashes erupted when Brotherhood members rallied Muslim worshippers to hold Eid al-Fitr prayers in an empty lot instead of a separate area allotted by the government in the village of Old Salhiya, said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press. During Eid, it is customary for many Muslims pray outside instead of in mosques.
Blue security trucks sealed off the area while police fired tear gas to disperse the gathering, the official said. Brotherhood members and others reacted by hurling stones at security forces. The local Muslim Brotherhood Web site 15 people injured and 35 arrested.
Police said that dozens arrested but didn’t give a specific number.
Sharqiya, like many Nile Delta cities, is known as a Muslim Brotherhood hideout.
The Brotherhood, which has been banned since 1954, is Egypt’s largest opposition group. Its lawmakers, who run as independents, currently hold 88 seats in the 454-member lower house of the parliament.
Authorities have increasingly cracked down on the Islamist group since December, including sending 40 of its top financiers and businessmen to a military tribunal on charges of money laundering and supporting terrorism.
The Brotherhood claim that at least 600 of its members have been detained, including key leaders.