The country's Interior Minister, Habib el-Adli, said 23 members of  al-Jihad were arrested recently as they prepared to join the Iraqi resistance against the occupying forces.

Suspected of being led by Ayman al-Zawahri, Usama bin Ladin's right-hand man, al-Jihad is a prominent Islamic group in Egypt.

The interior minister also said Egypt had freed more than 1000 members of the Islamic group, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya.

In an interview with the weekly newspaper al-Mussawar, the minister said the members were released after they had promised to renounce violence.

"Nearly 1000 members of the Jamaa Islamiya have been released over a period of time in line with clear guidelines and their commitment to rejecting violence," the minister said.

Though linked to the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat al-Jamaa al-Islamiya renounced violence in 1998, bringing to an end a wave of violence which left 1300 people dead.

"All those who have been freed are living normally among the people and clearly state their rejection of violence and their total commitment to the initiative declared by the Jamaa leadership," the minister added.