The members, including Islamic clerics, were detained on Saturday after protesting with about 2000 others in front of a mosque in al-Gharbiya province, 105km north of Cairo, Brotherhood spokesman Badr Muhammad Badr and a police official said.

Abd al-Rahman Hashim, a member of the group in al-Gharbiya, said protesters were calling for reforming the religious institutions in Egypt, including electing the imam, or prayer leader, of the influential Al-Azhar mosque.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said only 20 were arrested in al-Gharbiya and that 16 others were detained in the southern city of Assiut.

More detentions

Badr denied the Assiut arrests.

Muhammad Husain, a member of the group and Assiut University professor, said 64 people, mostly students, had been detained in the city from Sunday to Tuesday and their whereabouts were not known.

T

In the past few months, police
have arrested thousands 

he discrepancies between the numbers given by the Brotherhood and the police could not be explained.

Hundreds of group members have been detained in recent weeks as part of an increasing confrontation between the government and the Brotherhood, which is probably Egypt's strongest opposition group.

The government crackdown was launched after the Brotherhood began a series of large, public protests, joining other opposition groups in demanding political reforms in the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

The Brotherhood, which has been banned since 1954 and renounced violence years ago, has not held protests in recent years, seeking to avoid provoking the authorities.