Monday 27 February 2017

Officials blame 'thugs' on Cairo blaze at nightclub after at least 16 people die

Paula Keifer in Cairo

People and investigators gather at the scene of a petrol bomb attack on a Cairo disco in the Agouza neighbourhood of the Egyptian capital's Giza district.
People and investigators gather at the scene of a petrol bomb attack on a Cairo disco in the Agouza neighbourhood of the Egyptian capital's Giza district.

A Molotov cocktail hurled at a Cairo nightclub killed 16 people and wounded at least five yesterday, Egyptian security officials have said.

An official said one of the attackers was an employee who had been fired from the restaurant in the Agouza area in the centre of the Egyptian capital.

Victims of the blast were burned to death or died from smoke inhalation in the establishment. The nightclub, also a restaurant, was located in a basement - offering no escape route, officials said.

Hussain Hassan, the nightclub manager, said he tried to prevent a group from entering because they would cause problems, saying: "They were a group of thugs. I prevented them entering the club 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."

Mr Hassan said that all the victims were employees of the nightclub - 11 men and 5 women. But MENA, Egypt's state-run news agency, quoted an unnamed security official as saying it was three men on a motorcycle who threw molotov cocktails into the club and then fled.

Police were looking for two young men who carried out the attack in the Agouza district because they were previously not allowed to enter the club, MENA reported.

While Egypt is regularly hit by extremist violence, particularly targeting security forces, attacks on nightclubs are rare.

The agency said the fire was quickly extinguished and security authorities are investigating the attack. Security officials earlier said 18 people died.

An online video posted by newspaper Youm 7 showed thick black smoke pouring through the doorway of the el-Sayad restaurant as onlookers milled around outside, unable to help. Flames were burning the inside of the building and charring the facade.

The wooden entrance of nightclub is believed to have contributed to the speed of the spread of fire. Some reports said that the attackers threw petrol at the entrance of the nightclub, which is located in the ground floor, to block those inside from escaping.

Mr Hassan said that the police arrested one of the perpetrators and claimed that the group had attacked another nightclub before, but they were not arrested.

A witness working in a shop nearby said that he heard gunfire in the early morning. "I saw two people on a motorcycle covering their face."

"I saw some of the dead people while they were taken by ambulance - they were not burnt, they most probably died because of suffocation," Mohamed Ali said.

The interior ministry denied that the incident was linked to terrorism.

However, Islamist militants have claimed a number of bombing and shooting attacks in Egypt, mostly against members of the security forces, since the army toppled Mohamed Morsi, the former president of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013 after mass protests.

Irish Independent

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