Egypt detains brotherhood members

Cairo, Egypt - The authorities in Egypt have rounded up dozens of members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Officials from the Islamist organisation put the figure of arrests at 70.

Correspondents say the government is escalating a crackdown on the group ahead of local elections in April.

Reports say the arrests bring to at least 150 the number of brotherhood activists taken into custody in the last week.

Nearly 500 Muslim Brotherhood members in all are now in detention, the group says.

Although the brotherhood is banned in Egypt, it is tolerated to a degree, with its members standing as independents in elections.

The municipal elections were postponed in 2006, in what analysts said was an attempt by the authorities to prevent more election success for the Muslim Brotherhood, after its gains in the 2005 parliamentary vote.

Brotherhood-supporting MPs hold more than one-fifth of seats in the Egyptian parliament.