UK

Cairo Mosque Siege: Irish Citizens Among Hundreds Trapped Inside As Violence Engulfs Egypt

17/08/2013 11:47 BST | Updated 17/08/2013 11:54 BST

Hundreds of people - including four Irish citizens - are trapped in a mosque in Cairo as Egypt prepares for further violence.

Reporters counted 30 to 40 bodies inside the Al-Fath mosque, which was at the centre of a standoff between the security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Egyptian soldiers were set to enter the mosque on Saturday morning, the Telegraph reported.

Among those inside the mosque are reported to be the children of Hussein Halawa - the Imam of Ireland's biggest mosque in Dublin.

cairo mosque siege

A screengrab of footage from inside the mosque shows barricades

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."

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(GRAPHIC WARNING) Egypt Clash Between Islamist President Mohammed Morsi Supporters And Security Forces

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 Irish 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 on Saturday 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.

The UK government has said it is "deeply concerned" about the escalating crisis and "deplores" the latest loss of life.

Chaos continued to engulf the capital Cairo on Friday leaving at least 82 people dead, including 10 policemen.

More than 700 people have died across the country in a week of violence between those loyal to Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the security forces of the interim government.