CAIRO • A petrol bomb attack on a Cairo disco killed at least 16 people and wounded three as a blaze broke out following an apparent dispute with the staff, the Interior Ministry said.
Police launched a manhunt after the perpetrators fled the scene of the firebombing in the early hours of yesterday in the Agouza neighbourhood of the Egyptian capital. The blaze broke out in a disco attached to the El-Sayad club and restaurant.
TV footage showed thick black smoke pouring through the doorway of the restaurant.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze before it could spread to neighbouring buildings.
The victims, all of whom were nightclub staff, were burnt to death or died from smoke inhalation.
The premises were located in a basement and had only one exit, which may have prevented some of the victims from escaping.
A manager at the club said that the wooden ceiling had caught fire and collapsed.
Forensic investigators later inspected the charred entrance, taking photographs and collecting evidence in plastic bags. Police imposed a security cordon outside as a crowd of onlookers gathered.
An Interior Ministry statement said: "The preliminary investigation conducted by the security services found that there was a dispute between employees and other people, who then launched firebombs at the nightclub in revenge."
A security source said the attack followed an argument between employees and a group of youths who frequented the establishment. One of the officials said an attacker was an employee who had been fired from the restaurant.
The disaster is likely to renew concerns about safety standards in the country, where dozens have died in blazes in recent years.
In July, 26 people were killed when a fire tore through a three-storey furniture factory north of Cairo.
While there was no indication of any terrorist link, the arson comes with Egyptian security forces on heightened alert following a series of attacks, including in Cairo.
Islamist militants have killed scores of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula, since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013.
Attacks have also targeted policemen and government buildings in the capital, several of them claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
They often claim that their attacks are in retaliation for the deaths of hundreds of pro-Islamists in a police crackdown and the detention of thousands.
The militants have also claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian passenger plane after it left the south Sinai resort of Sharm el- Sheikh on Oct 31, killing all 224 people on board.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA