A firebomb attack on a nightclub in Egypt killed 16 and injured five people. Though the attackers wore masks and hurled a few Molotov cocktails that resulted in an inferno, police believe the attack was with criminal intent and not related to terrorism.
A Molotov cocktail hurled into a nightclub in Cairo, Egypt, killed 16 people and wounded at least five on Friday. Local eyewitnesses said two men, who were denied entry into the nightclub, returned and flung Molotov cocktails, which set off a huge fire. Victims were trapped inside and many succumbed to smoke inhalation. Authorities confirmed 16 people lost their lives after they were trapped by dense smoke and flames. Speaking about the people who started the fire, Hussain Hassan, the manager said,
“I tried to prevent a group from entering because I suspected they would cause problems. They were a group of thugs. I prevented them entering the club around 4am because they get drunk and cause problems. Around 6.30 am, six thugs returned with three motorcycles and attacked the shop with guns and Molotov cocktails.”
Though Egypt has been combating a surge in Islamic insurgency in recent months, preliminary investigations has ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack. There have been attacks on security forces, but attacks on nightclubs are unheard of.
The fire has completely gutted the El Sayad restaurant and club in Cairo’s Agouza district, reported ABC News. The restaurant isn’t just a nightclub, but was essentially a restaurant that catered to patrons until the early morning hours. Fewer victims would have burned to death or died from smoke inhalation had the restaurant offered fire escapes. However, the restaurant was located in a basement, which didn’t have any fire escape route, trapping people in the inferno. The dense smoke didn’t allow people to help those trapped in the nightclub.
Incidentally, none of the casualties were customers, confirmed the manager. All the victims, 11 men and five women, were employees of the nightclub.
There are conflicting reports about the attackers. According to the Telegraph, one of the suspects is a former employee of the restaurant who was recently fired from the establishment. Meanwhile, Egypt’s state-run news agency MENA reported there were three men, who arrived on a motorcycle and flung a few Molotov cocktails into the club and then fled the scene. Other news agencies even cited some sources who claimed that attackers flung petrol at the entrance to prevent people from escaping from the burning nightclub.
In Egypt, being a predominantly Muslim country, alcohol is considered taboo. Though alcohol is legal in the country, majority of the restaurants do not have a liquor license, which is mandatory to serve alcohol on the premises. El Sayad restaurant is not officially a nightclub but is among Egypt’s small local eateries, which are quite popular with the locals and foreigners who wish to have alcohol with their meals. The restaurant serves food and alcohol throughout the day and then turns into a nightclub until the early morning hours, reported Fox News. The club is quite popular with a large number of expatriates who stay nearby.
The club is in the Agouza neighborhood in Egypt’s Giza governorate on the outskirts of Cairo, on the western bank of the Nile River, reported CNN. Another state-run Nile TV corroborated the speculation expressed by the authorities that the attack wasn’t an act of terrorism but was a result of dispute between management and a few disgruntled customers.
Egyptian forces have been facing a lot of assaults by terrorists, and tensions remain high. However, the nightclub attack wasn’t executed by terrorists, reported CBS News. An investigation into the incident may examine if the nightclub had the requisite permissions and whether it had clearances from various departments, including the fire department, for operating in the basement.
[Photo by Mohamed El-Shahed / Getty Images]