Hamas and Hezbollah activists were involved in killing Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square, as well as storming Egyptian jails and releasing political prisoners, during the early days of the Egyptian revolution, a former Egyptian minister said on Tuesday.

Mansour al-Essawy, who served as interior minister from March-November 2011, told the independent Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm that Hamas used specially manufactured darts with metal heads to kill Egyptian anti-regime protesters in Cairo.

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners broke out of jail just four days after protests began across Egypt in January 2011, aided by anti-government activists who engaged Egyptian security forces in gun battles. Eight prisoners were reported killed.

“Hamas certainly had a large role in storming the prisons,” Essawy said. “All information indicates that members of the movement and members of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah attacked the prisons where political activists were held, smuggled them out, and then opened other prisons by breaking down their doors using trucks, as happened in the Abu-Z’ubul and Marj prisons,” he continued.

It was not clear why the Brotherhood or Hamas, neither of which overtly supported the Mubarak regime, would be involved in killing protesters in Tahrir.

Essawy’s statements were the latest in a series of anti-Hamas publications in Egypt’s independent media in recent weeks, as part of a campaign that seems aimed at knocking the Muslim Brotherhood down a peg. On Friday, al-Masry al-Youm reported that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood maintained telephone communication during the first days of the popular uprising.

Former Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had testified in court that Hamas operatives were indeed spotted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the early days of the revolution and their telephone conversations were tracked, Essawy told the daily, adding that Egyptian security vehicles were smuggled out of Egypt and into the Gaza Strip.

“A government ministry officially informed the Ministry of Interior that cars belonging to Central Security Forces crossed into Gaza on the 28 and 29 of January [2011], cars which were stolen on the ‘Friday of Rage’,” Essawy said.  

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