Egyptian security forces have stormed a town held by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and arrested 56 residents as part of a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood, officials said.
The forces entered the town of Dalga, in Minya province about 300km south of Cairo, early on Monday, clearing barricades that had been erected by the Morsi loyalists.
Gunshots were exchanged but there were no official reports of injuries.
According to witnesses, police and army units entered the town using tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters, while internet and phone lines were cut off. They said dozens were injured in the raid.
Daga, which has a population of roughly 120,000, has been under the control of Morsi supporters for more than a month.
Protests against the coup that ousted Morsi on July 3 have been taking place in the town almost on a daily basis.
Monday’s raid was launched to wrest back control of the area and arrest people accused by the military-backed government of inciting violence.
Officials accused the Morsi supporters of torching about 20 churches and homes in Dalga in August and spray-painting X marks on shops owned by Christians.
Video footage showed military helicopters being used in the operation.
Brotherhood activist Yehya Shaker told Reuters news agency that “residents put up some resistance during the house raids”.
They threw bricks at the police and set ablaze car tyres, and the security forces responded by firing bird-shot and tear gas, he said.
All 32 entrances to the village were shut and a daytime curfew imposed as authorities captured the town.
The raid comes amid a massive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters following the July 3 coup, which plunged the country deeper into turmoil.
In mid-August police and soldiers broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo in an operation that killed hundreds and further polarised the country.
Thousands have also been arrested, including Morsi and other top Brotherhood and Islamist leaders, many of whom await trial on charges of inciting violence.
A transition plan set up by the army-backed interim government stipulates fresh parliamentary elections and a presidential vote by mid-2014.