Police in Egypt arrested at least 30 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood party on Thursday, in a continuing crackdown ahead of next week's local elections.

Authorities rounded up Brotherhood members in Alexandria, Kafr al-Sheikh, and Sharkia, charging the detainees with belonging to an illegal political organization. Hundreds of Brotherhood members have been arrested in recent weeks, and a senior party member, Mohamad Habib, says at least 260 members of his group have been arrested following protests this week alone.

The Brotherhood has been demonstrating against what it calls illegal government attempts to exclude its members from the April eighth elections. Habib says the Interior Ministry has only approved 20 Brotherhood members as candidates, in spite of an earlier agreement which would have permitted 498 candidates.

This week's protests across northern Egypt turned violent at times. Demonstrators threw rocks, and police fired back with tear gas.

Egypt banned the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954, but its members have managed to win seats in Parliament in past elections by running as independents.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned the government crackdown as an attempt to rig the upcoming elections.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.