CAIRO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Egypt rounded up members of the Muslim Brotherhood including at least eight senior leaders of the group ahead of planned countrywide protests on Friday, a lawyer representing the detained men said.
Lawyer Abdel-Moniem Abdel-Maksoud said at least eight senior figures had been held in raids in the early hours of Friday, including spokesmen Essam El-Erian, Mohamed Mursi and Hamdy Hassan.
"The reason is of course known: it's what is expected to happen tomorrow," he said.
A security source confirmed that authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group overnight: "We have orders for security sweeps of the Brotherhood," the source told Reuters.
The Muslim Brotherhood has not been behind three days of protests by youth angry at poor living standards and authoritarian rule, but many followers of the group are expected to join demonstrations on Friday after weekly prayers.
The government has issued warnings to youth demonstrators not to allow the Brotherhood to use protests for what the authorities described as its "hidden agenda".
Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and others say the government uses its Islamist opposition as an excuse for authoritarian rule.
Activists have called for the biggest demonstrations yet on Friday after three days of protests inspired by the demonstrations that toppled the leader of Tunisia this month.
Copyright 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more