CAIRO Egypt's interior ministry said on Tuesday its forces had killed a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, whom it described as responsible for the group's "armed wing", as well as his aide in a shootout overnight.
Mohamed Kamal, 61, a member of the group's top leadership council, and Yasser Shehata, were killed when security forces raided an apartment in Cairo's southern Bassateen district, the ministry said.
A lawyer representing the two men's families told Reuters they both surrendered as soon as police arrived around 6 pm on Monday. "They went to the balcony and put their hands up in the air," said the lawyer who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.
A group of policemen carried out the arrest and stayed with them in the apartment, while another group went to search Shehata's nearby apartment. At around 11:30 p.m. police concluded the search and shot the men, the lawyer said.
The forensic report said that both Kamal and Shehata were shot in the head, he added.
The Muslim Brotherhood said on its social media accounts that Kamal had disappeared on Monday afternoon, hours before the interior ministry announced his death.
Amr Darrag, a senior Brotherhood official exiled in Turkey, told Reuters that Kamal had not been involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation for months. He disputed the interior ministry's account that Kamal died in an exchange of fire, saying he was arrested and then killed.
"This could to lead to more irresponsible acts of violence by the young people. The youth are outraged," Darrag said.
General-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched the toughest crackdown on Islamists in Egypt's modern history after toppling President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood in mid-2013 following protests against his turbulent year in office.
Hundreds of Mursi supporters were killed by security forces as they cleared two protest camps in the capital, and thousands of the group's sympathisers were detained and sentenced to death in mass trials that drew condemnation from rights groups.
The Brotherhood, the world's oldest Islamist movement, was branded a terrorist organisation and banned. Most of its senior members have been arrested and driven into exile or underground.
The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation and has condemned the crackdown. Sisi went on to win a presidential election by a landslide a year after his takeover.
The interior ministry said it had raided an apartment in Cairo on Monday night after learning that it was being used as a Brotherhood base and was met by gunfire from inside. It said its forces fired back, killing the two men inside.
Kamal was one of the most prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to remain at large and had been a member of the group's top-level Guidance Bureau. He had been in charge of the Supreme Administrative Committee, known as the youth committee, until May, when he resigned over differences with other leaders of the group.
Kamal had been sentenced to life in prison on two counts in absentia, according to the interior ministry statement.
Shehata was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for assaulting a citizen and forcibly detaining him in the headquarters of the Brotherhood's political wing, it said.
(Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Lisa Shumake, Ralph Boulton)