CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt has accused members of the country's largest Islamic fundamentalist organization of plotting to overthrow the regime and funneling money to extremist groups.

The Interior Ministry, in a statement Monday, said members of the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood group were arrested Sunday throughout Egypt. It did not say how many people were detained.

The arrests, which the brotherhood numbered at 27, appeared to be part of a government campaign to stem dissent, particularly by religious politicians, journalists and lawyers.

Such a crackdown highlights the government's sensitivity to its Islamic opponents, whose complaints of corruption and repression strike a chord among many Egyptians.

The Muslim Brotherhood, while outlawed, has been tolerated for years. It has entered into coalitions with political parties and won control of Egypt's most powerful unions. Its active members are believed to number in the tens of thousands.

The brotherhood's ties to more militant groups, which have waged a three-year insurgency in southern Egypt and Cairo, have always been unclear. The brotherhood has denied any links.

The Interior Ministry accused the group's members of involvement in ``the support, financial aid and propaganda for members and leaders of terrorism.''

The ministry said the group had attempted to set up secret branches and tried to infiltrate political parties and unions. It also accused members of contacts with terrorist groups in Egypt and abroad.

No countries were named, but Egypt has pointed in the past to the fundamentalist regimes of Sudan and Iran as support bases.

The Muslim Brotherhood said those arrested included a former parliament member, doctors and union leaders. The brotherhood statement said police tried to arrest a 28th man who was not at home.

Brotherhood spokesmen were not available for comment. But opposition groups were quick to react.

A statement by several Egyptian unions called the arrests ``one of the episodes of intellectual terrorism against the symbols and leaders of union and political work in Egypt.''

The government can detain anyone deemed a security threat under emergency laws in effect since President Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981. The government has used the law before to arrest brotherhood leaders.

Founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood quickly became a force in Egypt and the Arab world. It went underground in the 1950s and 1960s when President Gamal Abdel Nasser hanged some of its leaders and jailed others.

It re-emerged under Sadat, who courted it as a counterweight to his leftists opponents. President Hosni Mubarak has tolerated the group.