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16 killed as Cairo restaurant firebombed after entry row

Published 04/12/2015

Investigators check the scene of the firebomb attack in Cairo (AP)
Investigators check the scene of the firebomb attack in Cairo (AP)

A group of young men have firebombed a restaurant in Cairo , setting off a blaze that killed 16 people and wounded three, authorities said.

Officials in the Egyptian capital denied speculation that the attacks had any terror connection. Egypt has been battling a growing Islamic insurgency, and a branch of Islamic State has claimed many large-scale attacks across the country.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim said police were looking for six people over the attack, which came after two people were banned from entering the business in the Agouza district.

The El Sayad restaurant is among scores of small local eateries that skirt taboos around drinking in a predominantly Muslim country by serving food and alcohol throughout the day, then effectively turning into a nightclub overnight.

Alcohol is legal in Egypt but most restaurants and clubs do not have liquor licences and obtaining one involves a difficult bureaucratic procedure.

Mr Abdel-Karim said that after the two men were not allowed to enter El Sayad, they "went and drank alcohol somewhere else, brought four others with them and came on three motorcycles at around 6 in the morning".

"They then threw a Molotov cocktail at the entrance of the place," Mr Abdel-Karim said. "This caused the fire and the smoke and the 16 deaths."

Eleven of the victims were staff and employees, and one of the bodies is a woman, added Mr Abdel-Karim. The identities of the five remaining victims - four women and one man - remain unknown.

He said there were no survivors inside the club, which was built from a converted underground garage, with only one narrow door leading to the outside.

Three people were reportedly wounded, raising speculation they might have been passers-by or just outside the club.

The victims all died of suffocation, said Mr Abdel-Karim, adding that people were trapped inside because the fire was located at the entrance of the club.

"That was only one door, and the door is narrow and unfortunately also the place is one metre underground," he added.

Online video posted by newspaper Youm 7 showed thick black smoke pouring out of the doorway of El Sayad as onlookers milled outside unable to help. Flames torched the inside of the building and charred the entrance of the club, located on the ground level of an apartment building.

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