Irish citizens leave besieged Cairo mosque

Four Halawa siblings understood to be safe after Egyptian security forces storm building

Sat, Aug 17, 2013, 18:38

Egypt’s Nile News reported that about 10 people, mostly women, left the mosque today accompanying the body of a woman who died yesterday.

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.

Anti-Morsi gangs outside the mosque have threatened to kill her if she leaves the building, she 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.”

Video: Omaima Halawa speaks from the mosque

Ms Halawa, who is a student at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology said she and her siblings have been in Egypt on holidays since the start of the summer. Their mother is in Egypt while their father remained in Dublin.

From the family home at Firhouse in the south Dublin, another sister Nasaybi said they were enduring a terrible ordeal. “We are really worried. We do not know how to help them,” she said. “ We are just trying to support them by calling and giving them some hope that they will get home safely.”

The “Day of Rage” was ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in demonstrations earlier in the week, leaving hundreds dead.

Supporters of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi are vowing to defy a state of emergency with new protests today, the day after marches in Cairo devolved into the fiercest street battles that the capital has seen in more than two years.

Police and armed vigilantes at neighbourhood checkpoints battled Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters, with the sight of residents firing at one another marking a dark turn in the conflict.

Military helicopters hovered over the centre of Cairo as residents furious with the Brotherhood protests pelted marchers with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles throughout the capital’s residential neighbourhoods.

Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, yesterday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling the marchers. Few police in uniform were seen as neighbourhood watch groups and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upmarket island neighbourhood where many foreigners and ambassadors live.

The violence began shortly after midday prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group’s call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the bloodshed earlier this week.