Several media outlets have reported that Egypt's National Security has arrested leading members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, but the interior ministry has not yet issued any official statement on the subject.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, former leading member of the Brotherhood's guidance office, Abdel Rahman El-Bar, the Islamist group’s mufti, and two others were arrested inside an apartment in 6 October city late on Sunday night, a security source told the Ahram Arabic News website early on Tuesday.
Reuters' Aswat Masriya however reported on Tuesday morning that both Ghozlan and El-Bar had been arrested a day earlier, on Monday night, and had been referred to the National Security’s prosecution, also according to a security source.
Both Ghozlan and El-Bar were about to flee to Sudan, according to the security source quoted by Aswat Masriya.
Ghozlan is wanted in several cases, while a Qalioubiya criminal court sentenced El-Bar to death in absentia in 2014.
Both have been on the run since the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, and it was previously widely believed that both men were either in Qatar or Turkey.
Late on Monday, police general Abu Bakr Abdel Karim from the interior ministry, told the MBC Misr TV channel that he had no information regarding the two prominent figures' arrest, after the news that they had been taken into custody began to spread online. When security forces had sufficient information about the arrest of both El-Bar and Ghozlan, there would be an official announcement regarding the matter, he said.
Abdullah Haddad, from the Brotherhood media office in London, however confirmed the news on Tuesday morning, writing on his official Twitter account that both Ghozlan and El-Bar had been arrested in Egypt.
News of the arrest comes just hours after a statement read on Egyptian state TV on Monday evening, said to be issued by Egypt’s security apparatuses, claimed that they had foiled Muslim Brotherhood plans to "form a terrorist cell to gather intelligence about different security apparatuses" in Egypt to send it to the "international Muslim Brotherhood organisation and foreign parties".
Ghozlan returned to the spotlight last week, after two years of complete absence from public life, when he released a statement calling on Brotherhood members to remain peaceful in their struggle to restore "legitimacy in Egypt".
The Brotherhood accuse Egypt's current government of having conducted a military coup to depose a democratically-elected president.
The statement sparked debate, after several Brotherhood supporters online slammed the call as part of an outdated, failed Brotherhood policy to seek a "democratic solution”.
Last week, over 120 pro-Muslim Brotherhood scholars signed a statement calling for “retribution” against what they see as an illegitimate Egyptian government.
The Egyptian government designated the Muslim Brotherhood a "terrorist organisation" in November 2013.