Middle East

Cairo restaurant firebomb attack kills 16

Members of the Egyptian security stand guard in the restaurant that was attacked near Cairo, Egypt, 04 December 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Media reports say three masked men threw devices into the restaurant

Sixteen people have been killed in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after firebombs were thrown into a restaurant, officials say.

The attack took place at the El Sayad restaurant, in the central Agouza area.

Egyptian officials say six suspects are believed to have targeted the building after two of them had earlier been barred from entering.

The restaurant was in the basement, with only one door leading out, making it harder for people to escape.

The victims died from burns or the effects of inhaling smoke, Reuters news agency said. Three other people were injured.

Eleven of those who died were members of staff, AP quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim as saying.

At the scene: Orla Guerin, BBC News

Police and forensic investigators are still working inside the charred remains of the restaurant on the banks of the Nile.

When the blaze broke out at around 06:30 local time there was little chance of escape for those inside. The narrow blackened entrance way was the only way out.

One eyewitness told us firemen were slow to enter the building because they did not know anyone was trapped inside.

The local chemist told us he saw two men fleeing from the scene on motorbikes. He said initially he thought it was a terrorist attack but then he recalled having seen some of the men outside the restaurant the night before when they were turned away.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Victims reportedly burned to death or died from inhaling smoke

Video shot at the scene by an Egyptian news site showed thick, grey smoke billowing out of a doorway at street level as passersby tried to get close. Flames could be seen inside the entrance, as one man used a fire extinguisher to try to tackle the blaze.

The venue also served as an unofficial nightclub, reports said.

Cairo has previously been rocked by a series of attacks on security forces and civilians carried out by suspected Islamist militants.

An Islamist insurgency intensified in the wake of the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.