DUBLIN, Leinster: Four terrified Irish citizens are among hundreds of people trapped in a mosque in Cairo surrounded by Egyptian security forces, one of them told Irish broadcaster RTE on Saturday.
The three women and a teenager are children of the imam of Ireland's biggest mosque in Dublin and are on holiday in the Egyptian capital.
They took refuge in the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo after dozens of people were killed in violent clashes between supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces in the Egyptian capital on Friday.
Omaima Halawa, 21, who is with her two sisters Somaia, 27, and Fatima, 23, and their brother Ibrihim, 17, said security forces had thrown teargas at them inside the building.
"We are surrounded in the mosque both inside and outside," she told RTE. "The security forces broke in and threw tear gas at us."
The four had gone to Egypt with their mother for a holiday while their father, Hussein Halawa, remained in Ireland.
Another of the family's children, Nasaybi, said from their home in Dublin that her siblings were enduring a horrifying experience and she felt helpless.
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 Ireland's foreign ministry said embassy staff had contacted the four and were working with the Egyptian authorities to try to secure their safety.
The tense stand-off at the Al-Fath mosque comes after bloody clashes killed at least 173 people across Egypt in 24 hours and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 alleged supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The bloodshed followed the deaths of 578 people in a crackdown on Wednesday, splintering the army-installed interim government and drawing international condemnation.