Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Irish citizens trapped in mosque

Four Irish citizens are among hundreds of people trapped in an Egyptian mosque fearful they will be attacked if they leave. (AP)
Four Irish citizens are among hundreds of people trapped in an Egyptian mosque fearful they will be attacked if they leave. (AP)

Four Irish citizens are among hundreds of people trapped in an Egyptian mosque fearful they will be attacked if they leave.

The three women and a teenager are children of Hussein Halawa - the Imam of Ireland's biggest mosque in Dublin.

The four siblings, who are on holiday in Egypt, sought refuge in the mosque after 80 people were killed during violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces in Cairo yesterday.

Omaima Halawa, 21, who is with her two sisters Somaia, 27, and Fatima, 23, as well as their younger brother Ibrihim, 17, described the scene in Cairo as very frightening.

"We are surrounded in the mosque both inside and outside," she told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

"The security forces broke in and threw tear gas at us."

She said they had been warned they could be shot if they tried to leave.

Ms Halawa, who is a final year student at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology, said the Irish authorities had been in contact.

They had travelled to Egypt with their mother for a holiday earlier this summer. Their father remained in Dublin.

From the family home at Firhouse in the south of the city, another sister Nasaybi said they were enduring a terrible ordeal.

She said: "We are really worried. We do not know how to help them. We are just trying to support them by calling and giving them some hope that they will get home safely."

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said embassy staff had been in contact with the group and were working closely with the authorities in Cairo.

He said: "We can confirm we have been in touch with the group. We can also confirm that embassy staff have been in touch with the authorities in Egypt."

Later today hundreds of people are expected to take part in a solidarity protest at the Egyptian embassy in Dublin.

The rally, hosted by the Irish Anti War Movement, hopes to put pressure on the Irish Government to condemn the massacre of civilians in Cairo.

Ms Halawa said conditions inside the mosque are austere with no food, a lack of clean water, dozens of injured people and few medical supplies.

"There was a group of ladies who left. When they left they were attacked and taken," she said.

"We are not safe."

Ms Halawa was taking part in a demonstration when violence forced them into the mosque at about 7pm last night.

Her family is now too scared to leave without help and assurances from a diplomat. Thugs outside the mosque have threatened to kill her if she leaves the building, Mrs Halawa said.

"We want a safe passage out for the four of us. I do not trust (security forces) or the thugs.

"They have personally threatened to slaughter me when they see me."

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