The police on Wednesday exchanged fire with gang members trying to escape from the village of Naga Abd al-Rasoul, about 285 km south of Cairo, the sources said. There were no immediate reports of casualties. 

The police are looking for the 40 owners of the land and for 80 people who have been tried and sentenced in absentia for rug offences, armed robbery and murder, they said. 

The operation was part of a larger campaign against drug gangs which have taken control of some villages in southern Egypt and have been operating with relative impunity. 

On 1 March police arrested the ringleader and 21 members of
another gang in the same province after a one-week confrontation during which the gang held dozens of hostages in the village of Nakhila. Police also seized marijuana and opium.