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Egypt Arrests 70 Brotherhood Members

Egyptian authorities say security forces have arrested more than 70 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in a series of raids, as the government intensifies its crackdown against the group.

Security officials say the raids early Thursday focused on Brotherhood strongholds in Cairo and the Nile Delta region.

The officials say the men were arrested on charges of belonging to an outlawed group and possessing anti-government literature.

The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt, but its members - running as independents - won 20 percent of parliament's seats in 2005.

Egypt's government began its latest crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood after group members wore military-style uniforms during a demonstration at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in December.

Since then, several top Brotherhood members, including the group's deputy leader Mohammed Khayrat al-Shater have been detained. Egyptian officials say those detainees are to stand trial before a military court.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt to free Brotherhood members who, it said, were detained "solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed reforms that, if adopted, would formally ban all religious groups from forming political parties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.