Cairo (AP) — A new wave of sexual assaults by groups of men targeting women during anti-government protests in Cairo's central Tahrir Square has been reported as millions of Egyptians take to the streets to demand President Mohammed Morsi's ouster.

A vigilante group formed to protect women in the square, which has become the epicenter of anti-government rallies, said it recorded the highest number of attempts — 46 — on Sunday as the majority of protesters were festive as families with small children and others spilled into side streets and across boulevards, waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting.

The atmosphere became less friendly in Tahrir as night fell on the badly lit plaza, which has seen a rise in attacks against women since shortly after the 18-day revolution that forced the resignation of Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011. Sexual harassment has long been common in Egypt, but its increasing frequency and violence has shaken the protest movement.

A Dutch woman was assaulted by multiple men as a crowd surrounded her in Tahrir Square on Friday as weekend protests by Morsi's supporters and opponents got underway, officials said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday that the 22-year-old woman was repatriated, referring to a statement issued by the Dutch embassy in Cairo.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to the media, said the Egyptian prosecutor's office had launched an investigation into the attack.

Dutch media reported that the Foreign Ministry had confirmed a 22-year-old Dutch woman was assaulted on Friday night on Tahrir but given no more details. The media reports said she was apparently interning with an Egyptian organization and had gone to the square to take photos of the demonstrations.

Top presidential aide Essam el-Haddad, meanwhile, said the attack was among seven cases reported by human rights groups in or around Tahrir on Friday. "Those criminal acts do not appear to be politically motivated or controlled," he said in a statement posted on his office's Facebook page. The president's office also said the attacks "appear to be a sign the crowds in Tahrir are out of control."

Some protesters have alleged that the government has exaggerated claims of sexual assault to try to drive away female protesters and mar the movement's reputation.

Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault, which patrols the square, said 46 group assaults were recorded Sunday in Tahrir, calling that the highest number it has encountered since the group was formed in November 2012. "Many cases were severe cases that required either psychological or medical treatment," one member of the group, Engy Ghozlan, told The Associated Press.

The group said on its Twitter account that at least 17 attempted assaults were reported on Tahrir on Monday, and volunteers had intervened in eight of them.

An AP reporter witnessed a group of men waving wooden sticks surrounding an Egyptian woman on Sunday. She shouted at them before falling on the ground. Many of the men claimed they were trying to help the woman but they wouldn't allow anybody to approach her and it was unclear what happened next. The reporter was not able to reach the woman and help her.

Nabil Mitry, a 35-year-old protester who also saw the attack, said the assailants were yelling insults at a man trying to help the woman. He blamed the lack of police at the square. Security forces largely stay away to avoid provoking confrontations with the protesters.

"The problem is that there is no police, so there is no security. If the police was securing the square we wouldn't have this kind of problem", he said.

A spokesman for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad al-Haddad, urged protesters and others to support initiatives like Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault "to prevent anything from happening to citizens joining their demonstrations" in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

The group dismissed the statements Monday, saying "we don't believe in the presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood's sudden concern about the women's physical integrity or their full right to protest safely, when we all know their position regarding women's equality and rights."

Initiatives to counter the problem have mushroomed in recent months, with groups protecting women at large protests or during national holidays when groping and harassment in crowds is at an all-time high. Activists have offered self-defense classes for women. Social network sites have been started where women can "name and shame" their harassers.

But there also are conservative religious clerics and some government officials who blame women, saying they invite harassment and sexual abuse by mixing with men.

In one of the most high-profile cases, Lara Logan, a correspondent for U.S. network CBS, was sexually assaulted and beaten in Tahrir Square at the height of the anti-Mubarak uprising. She said later that she believed she was going to die. After being rescued, Logan returned to the United States and was treated in a hospital for four days.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shouts slogans during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. A Defense Ministry official said army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is meeting with his top commanders, hours before the military's deadline to the president and opposition to resolve the nation's political crisis is set to expire. Arabic read " leave." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi slaughter lambs as symbols of Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi hold Arabic signs reading "leave," as fire rages at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Alexandria, Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The deadline on the military's ultimatum to President Mohammed Morsi has expired, with 48 hours passing since the time it was issued. Giant cheering crowds of Morsi's opponents have been gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other locations nationwide, waving flags furiously in expection that the military will act to remove the Islamist president after the deadline ends. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The deadline on the military's ultimatum to President Mohammed Morsi has expired, with 48 hours passing since the time it was issued. Giant cheering crowds of Morsi's opponents have been gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other locations nationwide, waving flags furiously in expection that the military will act to remove the Islamist president after the deadline ends. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Egyptian protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi react as they watch his speech on a screen in a street leading to presidential palace early in Cairo on July 3, 2013. Morsi told Egyptians that he had been freely elected little more than a year ago and that he intended to continue to carry out his duties despite mass protests demanding his resignation. (MAHMUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Hundreds of Egyptian protesters begin to gather in Tahrir Square as the deadline given by the military to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi approaches on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The president gave a defiant speech last night and vowed to stay in power despite the military threats. As unrest spreads throughout the country, at least 23 people were killed in Cairo on Tuesday and over 200 others were injured. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Holding a picture of the second President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, hundreds of Egyptian protesters begin to gather in Tahrir Square as the deadline given by the military to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi approaches on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The president gave a defiant speech last night and vowed to stay in power despite the military threats. As unrest spreads throughout the country, at least 23 people were killed in Cairo on Tuesday and over 200 others were injured. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Thousands of Egyptian protesters begin to gather in Tahrir Square as the deadline given by the military to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi approaches on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The president gave a defiant speech last night and vowed to stay in power despite the military threats. As unrest spreads throughout the country, at least 23 people were killed in Cairo on Tuesday and over 200 others were injured. It has been reported that the military has taken over state television. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Thousands of Egyptian protesters begin to gather in Tahrir Square as the deadline given by the military to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi approaches on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The president gave a defiant speech last night and vowed to stay in power despite the military threats. As unrest spreads throughout the country, at least 23 people were killed in Cairo on Tuesday and over 200 others were injured. It has been reported that the military has taken over state television. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Thousands of Egyptian protesters begin to gather in Tahrir Square as the deadline given by the military to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi approaches on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The president gave a defiant speech last night and vowed to stay in power despite the military threats. As unrest spreads throughout the country, at least 23 people were killed in Cairo on Tuesday and over 200 others were injured. It has been reported that the military has taken over state television. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi gather in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on July 2, 2013 as laser lights (L) directed at the government building spell 'Game Over.' (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Opposition protesters shout slogans as they gather in thousands at qoubba Presidential Palace to protest against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood on July 2, 2013 in Cairo. Egypt's political crisis deepened as Islamist President Mohamed Morsi snubbed an army ultimatum threatening to intervene if he did not meet the demands of the people, and five ministers led a spate of government resignations. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian supporters of President Mohamed Morsi gather in Rabaa el-Aadawia district of cairo on July 2, 2013, as opponents of Egypt's president also poured onto the streets of Cairo to press their demand that he step down after the Islamist president snubbed an ultimatum from the army to agree to the 'people's demands' or face an imposed solution. (KHALED KAMEL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian opposition protester shout slogans as tens of thousands gather outside the Presidential Palace calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on July 2, 2013 in Cairo. Opponents of Egypt's Mohamed Morsi poured onto the streets of Cairo to press their demand that he step down after the Islamist president snubbed an ultimatum from the army to agree to the 'people's demands' or face an imposed solution. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi gather in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on July 2, 2013. Opponents of Egypt's Mohamed Morsi poured onto the streets of Cairo to press their demand that he step down after the Islamist president snubbed an ultimatum from the army to agree to the 'people's demands' or face an imposed solution. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Egyptian opposition protester holds up the head of a sheep as tens of thousands gather outside the Presidential Palace calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on July 2, 2013 in Cairo. Opponents of Egypt's Mohamed Morsi poured onto the streets of Cairo to press their demand that he step down after the Islamist president snubbed an ultimatum from the army to agree to the 'people's demands' or face an imposed solution. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Egyptian youth with his face painted in the colours of the national flag look over as opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi protest calling for his ouster at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square, on July 2, 2013. Egypt's political crisis deepened as Islamist President Mohamed Morsi snubbed an army ultimatum threatening to intervene if he did not meet the demands of the people, and five ministers led a spate of government resignations. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Egyptian opposition demonstrator sits at the top of a column watching a military helicopter fly by, as protesters (unseen) call for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, on July 2, 2013. Egypt's political crisis deepened as Islamist President Morsi snubbed an army ultimatum threatening to intervene if he did not meet the demands of the people, and five ministers led a spate of government resignations. (MAHMUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Egyptian boy waves a national flag during a protest against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. With a military deadline for intervention ticking down, protesters seeking the ouster of Egypt's Islamist president sought Tuesday to push the embattled leader further toward the edge with another massive display of people power. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi hold a large Egyptian national flag during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Egypt was on edge Tuesday following a "last-chance" ultimatum the military issued to Mohammed Morsi, giving the president and the opposition 48 hours to resolve the crisis in the country or have the army step in with its own plan. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Egypt was on edge Tuesday following a "last-chance" ultimatum the military issued to Mohammed Morsi, giving the president and the opposition 48 hours to resolve the crisis in the country or have the army step in with its own plan. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • An Egyptian protester waves a national flag on a roof in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. Egypt's powerful military warned on Monday it will intervene if the Islamist president doesn't "meet the people's demands," giving him and his opponents two days to reach an agreement in what it called a last chance. Hundreds of thousands of protesters massed for a second day calling on Mohammed Morsi to step down. (AP Photo/ Manu Brabo)

  • An Egyptian protester waves a national flag in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. Egypt's powerful military warned on Monday it will intervene if the Islamist president doesn't "meet the people's demands," giving him and his opponents two days to reach an agreement in what it called a last chance. Hundreds of thousands of protesters massed for a second day calling on Mohammed Morsi to step down. (AP Photo/ Manu Brabo)

  • An Egyptian opposition demonstrator, runs down the length of a long national flag being held by protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, outside the presidential palace in Cairo, on July 2, 2013. (MAHMUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Egyptian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi waves Egyptian national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013, after Egypt's military issued an ultimatum. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi holds a banner with Arabic that reads, "leave," during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • A dog wearing a sign around his neck with Arabic that reads, "leave," accompanies its handler to a protest against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi blows a whistle during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian protester dances while chanting slogans against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi during a rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/ Manu Brabo)

  • Protesters pray during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/ Manu Brabo)

  • Egyptian protester stands on a roof near Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

  • A Egyptian protester waves a national flag in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/ Manu Brabo)

  • Fireworks light the sky as opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi blows a stadium horn during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi stand on railway bars during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An opponent of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi holds a poster with Arabic that reads, "Tamarod, down with the Muslim Brotherhood regime, 6/30, in front of Itihadeya," during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

  • Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. The banner at center, with Arabic writing, reads, "leave." (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi wave national flags and his posters during a rally in Nasser City, Cairo, Egypt, late Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/ Amr Nabil)

  • An military helicopter flies over an opponent if Egyptian Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as he waves a national flag, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • An Egyptian protester waves his national flag as thousands celebrate on July 1, 2013 in Cairo's landmark Tahrir square after Egypt's armed forces gave President Mohamed Morsi 48 hours to meet the demands of the people or it would intervene with a roadmap. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian opposition protesters celebrate on July 1, 2013 in Cairo's landmark Tahrir square after Egypt's armed forces gave President Mohamed Morsi 48 hours to meet the demands of the people or it would intervene with a roadmap. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Laser lights are directed by Egyptian protestors on military helicopters flying over the presidential palace in Cairo as hundreds of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators gather at the Egyptian Presidential Palace during a protest calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 1, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Laser lights directed by Egyptian protestors are seen on military helicopters flying over the presidential palace in Cairo as Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators gather at the Egyptian Presidential Palace during a protest calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on July 1, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.(GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)