CAIRO — At least 38 detainees belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in an incident at an Egyptian prison, Egyptian security sources said Sunday.
Those killed were part of a prison truck convoy of some 600 detainees heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt, the officials told The Associated Press. Detainees in one of the trucks rioted and managed to capture a police officer inside, the officials said.
Security forces fired tear gas into the truck in hopes of freeing the badly beaten officer inside, the officials said. The officials said those killed died from suffocating on the gas.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
However, the officials’ version of events contradicted reports about the incident carried by state media. The official website of Egyptian state television reported that the deaths took place after security forces clashed with militants near the prison and detainees came under fire while trying to escape. The official MENA state news agency also said the trucks came under attack from gunmen.
The official MENA news agency described the detainees and the gunmen as belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi belongs to as well. The news agency said detainees were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Cairo when the attack happened.
Egypt has rounded up thousands of Brotherhood supporters over the last several days as the military has attempted to crush opposition to the coup.
On Sunday, the Health Ministry updated the official death toll to 830 since fighting began on Wednesday with the dismantling of two encampments of Morsi supporters in Cairo — an act that sparked fierce clashes.
A number of marches in Cairo by anti-coup protesters were called off Sunday over security concerns, with organizers citing the presence of military snipers on rooftops along the route.
Several other protest marches were taking place late Sunday as demonstrators attempted to reach the heavily guarded constitutional courts. There were few reports of violence.
The high death toll has brought growing international isolation for the country’s interim leadership.
The European Union said Sunday it would “urgently review” its relations with Egypt over the violence.
Earlier in the day, authorities carried out sweeping raids on the Brotherhood, detaining mid-level officials and field operatives in several cities, according to security officials and group statements.
In Assiut, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Cairo, 163 of the group’s officials and operatives were rounded up in different towns in the province, security officials said. They said those arrested face charges of instigating violence and orchestrating attacks on police stations and churches.
In the city of Suez, nine people were arrested after being caught on film attacking army vehicles, burning churches and assaulting Christian-owned stores, officials said.
In the ancient southern city of Luxor, more than 20 Brotherhood senior officials were detained, officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak publicly to journalists.
Cairo said Sunday it had begun deliberations on whether to ban the Brotherhood, a long-outlawed organization that swept to power in the country’s first democratic elections a year ago.
In a sign of lingering violence Sunday, troops exchanged gunfire with men shooting from a minaret of the al-Fath mosque on Ramses Square, where hundreds of supporters of Mohammed Morsi had fled overnight after violent clashes killed 173 people.