Brotherhood deputy Guide General Mohammed Khayrat al-Shater was arrested at his home in Cairo before dawn on Thursday, December 14, security sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Dozens of students and teachers from Al-Azhar University -- the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam -- were also detained overnight, the sources added.
"The number of students arrested was not specified, but it could be as high as 180," a security official said on condition of anonymity.
"At least three professors and several student leaders were taken during this sweep," a Muslim Brotherhood official said.
An Interior Ministry statement said the swoop was launched because the group was responsible for planning and inciting acts of public disorder this week at Al-Azhar University.
Last Sunday, Brotherhood student members had organized a demonstration in front of Al-Azhar University president's office during which they held a military-style gathering, with some wearing black hoods and bandanas.
The statement accused the group of "having enlisted students to form a group called 'the Deterrence Committees' after training them in martial arts and equipped them with batons and knives."
No weapons were visible on the pictures of the demonstration that were published in Egyptian newspapers.
The Al-Azhar University students were protesting what they say disqualification of Brotherhood-affiliated students during the student union elections.
In student union elections in November, the authorities disqualified almost every candidate associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, ensuring pro-government candidates dominated.
The elections led to repeated clashes on campuses as informal security men in plain clothes attacked Brotherhood students protesting at their exclusion from the process.
The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the police swoop, accusing the government of using the student demonstration as an excuse to crack down on the opposition group.
"The crackdown campaign has used the students march as a pretext to show the group as if it was inciting violence," said a statement by the opposition group.
But it vowed that it would pursue with its efforts for comprehensive reforms in Egypt despite the police crackdown and the anti-Brotherhood campaigns.
"These campaigns would never emasculate the Brotherhood's rejection of violence and violent ideas," it added.
Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader, Mohammed Mehdi Akef, issued a statement admitting the protest was "a mistake".
He said it was nothing more than "a theatrical play" organized by the students, charging that the government media campaign against the opposition group as "unjustified escalation".
State-owned newspapers have attacked the Brotherhood in their columns all week, comparing it to the Lebanese group Hizbullah.
|"The students have organized the march by themselves," Habib said|
Mohamed Habib, the Brotherhood deputy leader, also denied that group has armed militias.
"The students have organized the march by themselves," he added.
The Muslim Brotherhood had a military wing in its early days in the 1930s and 1940s.
But the group renounced violence in favor of political activism after it was driven underground in the 1950s.
The Brotherhood is the country's largest opposition group, with 88 members in the 454-seat lower house of parliament.
It has championed democratic means to introduce comprehensive reforms in Egypt. But Egyptian police have cracked down on its members and other pro-reform protesters in the past period.
The students' protest has already sparked furor at Al-Azhar University, with its president blaming the student for the police crackdown.
"Al-Azhar University can not be turned into a place for the Brotherhood of Hassan al-Banna," said Ahmed AL-Tayeb, referring to the group's founder.
Speaking during a meeting with representatives of the Brotherhood student members at the University, Tayeb said the students' protest has pushed the security forces to intervene.
"We are not a pro-Brotherhood or Banna university. The University can not be turned into a place for garnering support for the Brotherhood," he said, mentioning the last name of the founder of the group Hassan Al-Bana.
On Wednesday, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated student union issued a statement apologizing for "the negative image conveyed by our actions on campus".
"We acted that way because we felt that nobody was listening or doing anything to defend our freedom," the statement said.
"Our will continues to be ignored and our rights to political participation are being violated on campus," it added, condemning the presence of security services in universities and the alleged rigging of student election results.Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16