The three arrested students have been identified as Gregory Porter, Luke Gates and Derrik Sweeney

Three US university students have been detained and paraded on Egyptian state television after being accused of throwing petrol bombs at police during protests near Cairo's Tahrir Square where demonstrators have been demanding an end to military rule.

State television described them only as "foreigners" on Tuesday. The US embassy confirmed that three US citizens were being detained while the American University in Cairo said three of its students had been arrested.

The sister of one of the detained three told the Guardian newspaper, a British daily, that her brother was being detained in an Egyptian courthouse, which she hoped was a good sign.

State television showed pictures of the students with their backs against a wall and looking at the camera.

One person out of the camera shot raised the head of one of the Americans with his hand to ensure he looked straight ahead.

Egyptian television also aired videos, taken by phone cameras, that it said showed the three taking part in the protest at night.

Access sought

The American University in Cairo said in statement: "Three of our American study-abroad students, Gregory Porter, Luke Gates and Derrik Sweeney, were arrested last night.

"We are in touch with their families and are working with the US embassy and the Egyptian authorities to ensure that they are safe."

Morgan Roth, the university's spokeswoman in the US, said it was not known if any charges had been filed, but a university legal counsellor and two US embassy officers had been sent to meet with authorities in Abdeen about the case.

"We have been in contact with the Egyptian authorities and can confirm that there are three US citizens in detention in connection with the protest. We have requested consular access," a US embassy spokeswoman said in Cairo.

She said the embassy expected to be granted access on Wednesday.

Source: Agencies