Four Irish siblings being held in Cairo detention centre
Three Halawa sisters and their brother took refuge in besieged mosque in Cairo following Muslim Brotherhood ‘Day of Rage’
He said those inside blocked the doors because they did not feel safe. “There were calls from outside to open the doors and go out,” he said. “I think the problem was lack of trust. They did not open the door because they were afraid if they opened the door they would be in danger.”
He said those inside did not know who was outside and whether they could trust them. “They heard screams from outside, they heard people talking to them,” he said. “But they could not figure out what was happening.”
Dr Selim, who taught the four siblings Arabic, said that they were bright students with “very inquisitive minds”.
- UN condemns ‘excesssive use of force’ in Egypt
- Irish citizens leave besieged Cairo mosque
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- Morsi supporters fight gun battle with security forces
- Hope of a compromise in Egypt between army and Brotherhood has now vanished
- ‘We thought they would leave us time to grieve’
Yesterday afternoon, before the mosque was cleared, Omaima Halawa, a final-year student at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology, spoke to The Irish Times. Speaking from inside the mosque as gunshots were being fired, she said it was surrounded by security forces, who had told everyone inside that they would be shot if they tried to flee the besieged building. “We’re still surrounded inside the mosque, it is unsafe, they are not letting us leave,” she said. “People have been injured they have been firing at the mosque all night.”
She said they were warned they could be shot if they tried to leave and requested an escort from the Irish Embassy in Cairo. Ms Halawa also claimed “thugs” outside the mosque threatened to kill her if she left the building. “They have personally threatened to slaughter me when they see me.”
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said last night they are continuing to liaise with authorities in Egypt. “We are in ongoing contact with the Egyptian authorities in relation to the safety and well-being of all Irish citizens involved. We are also involved with the family in Dublin,” he said.
Dozens of people took part in a solidarity protest yesterday outside the Egyptian embassy in Dublin. The rally, hosted by the Irish Anti-War Movement, was designed to put pressure on the Irish Government to condemn the massacre of civilians in Cairo.
The assault on the al-Fateh Mosque began on Friday when pro-Morsi protesters and armed men fled into the worship centre to avoid angry vigilantes and arrest. They piled furniture in the mosque’s entrance to block authorities and enraged anti-Morsi protesters from reaching them.
The mosque served as a field hospital and an open-air morgue as a Brotherhood-called day of protests descended into violence. By daybreak yesterday, security forces and armoured personnel carriers had surrounded the mosque and it appeared that military-led negotiations might defuse the stand-off.
A post on the Facebook page of the army spokesman, Colonel Mohammed Ali, accused gunmen of firing from the mosque at nearby buildings. The upper floors of a commercial building and blood bank towering over the square caught fire during the mayhem.
A Muslim cleric, Sheik Abdel-Hafiz el-Maslami, said people were afraid to leave the mosque out of fear of detention or being assaulted by the crowd outside. He said there were armed men inside the mosque at one point but protesters had forced them out. “We lost control over things,” the cleric said. “There were men with arms in the mosque who were forced out of the mosque but we can’t control things here.”