At least 16 people were killed in a firebomb attack on a nightclub near Cairo after an argument broke out between employees and revellers seeking to enter.

"Disagreements between staff at the nightclub and others caused [the latter] to throw Molotov cocktails at the door," the interior ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page on Friday.

Eleven men and five women died in the attack, and three people were injured, the interior ministry said.

Initial police investigations found the perpetrators were potential customers who were denied entry after an argument with the nightclub's staff escalated to a fist fight.

A security source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Al-Ahram news agency that one of the assailants has been identified, but all remain at large and the number of attackers is still unknown.

A witness told the private broadcaster ONTV the culprits fled on a motorbike.

However, a security official told Reuters news agency that the perpetrator was an employee who had been fired from the nightclub. The official initially said that 18 people had died. 

Victims either burned to death or died from smoke inhalation in the establishment.

The nightclub, which also has a restaurant, was in a basement, offering no escape route, officials said.

Multiple attackers reportedly threw petrol bombs at the nightclub in the plush quarter of Agouza, causing a fire [Khaled Elfiqi/EPA]

Source: Al Jazeera And Agencies