EGYPT: Muslim Brotherhood members escape prison, rally in Tahrir Square
One of the senior leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to establish an Islamist state in the Arab world's most populous nation, told the Associated Press he was heading to Tahrir (or Liberation) Square to meet with other opposition leaders Sunday.
“You can call this a revolution, you can call this an uprising,” Essam el-Erian said.
Members of the outlawed political party escaped during prison breaks Sunday, although it was not clear how many were freed.
State-run Nile TV reported several prison outbreaks throughout Egypt but said the number of escapees could not be verified. More than 3,000 have been arrested so far. Some were prisoners, and the rest were looters or acting illegally, the station reported.
Several officials were killed at a prison in southwest Cairo when about 1,000 inmates escaped, state TV reported Sunday. Nile TV did not say how many officials died, but said at least one was fatally shot by prisoners.
Thirty-four members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including leaders of the banned Islamist group, left a prison near Cairo on Sunday after guards abandoned their posts amid anti-regime protests, one of their lawyers told Agence France-Presse.
The Islamists who escaped from Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo had been arrested on Thursday either at their homes or during protests against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak that have been raging for days.
The official death toll from the growing crisis was about 100 Sunday with thousands injured, but reports from witnesses across the country indicated that the actual toll was far higher.
A security source told AFP that several thousand inmates had overwhelmed guards overnight at Wadi Natrun prison -- which holds many Islamist political prisoners -- and spilled out into nearby towns and villages.
"Their lives would have been in danger if they'd stayed," lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud told AFP.
A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood told Al Arabiya television Sunday that they have agreed to support opposition leader and 2005 Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to negotiate with the government.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske