A firebomb attack on a small nightclub in Cairo early yesterday morning killed 16 people and wounded three others.
Police were looking for two young men who were believed to have carried out the attack in the Agouza district because they were previously not allowed to enter, state news agency Mena reported.
The attack happened at the El Sayad restaurant, which is not officially a nightclub but is among Egypt’s small local eateries that skirt taboos around drinking in this predominantly Muslim country by serving food and alcohol throughout the day, then turning into a bar until the early-morning hours.
While alcohol is legal in Egypt, most restaurants and clubs do not have alcohol licences.
The ministry of interior, in a statement, cited an unnamed official with its Security Information Centre who said a preliminary investigation showed the attack happened after a dispute between the nightclub staff and some other people, who then threw Molotov cocktails at the entrance.
Online video posted by newspaper Youm 7 showed thick black smoke pouring through the doorway of El Sayad as onlookers milled outside unable to help. Flames were burning the inside of the building and charring the facade of the restaurant, located on the ground floor of an apartment building.
Hussain Hassan, the nightclub manager, said he tried to prevent a group from entering because they would cause problems.
“They were a group of thugs. I prevented them entering the club at around 4am because they get drunk and cause problems. At around 6.30am, six thugs returned with three motorcycles and attacked the shop with guns and molotov cocktails,” he said.
Mr Hassan said that all the victims were employees of the nightclub – 11 men and five women.
Other reports however, quoted an unnamed security official as saying it was three men on a motorcycle who threw Molotov cocktails into the club and then fled.
While Egypt is regularly hit by extremist violence, particularly targeting security forces, attacks on nightclubs are rare.
Yesterday security authorities were beginning their investigations into the attack.