Settling of scores is suspected as disco fire kills 12


A SETTLING of scores between discotheque owners was probably behind an arson attack on a northern Portuguese nightclub early, yesterday which left 12 people dead, police said.

Fourteen others were injured when three armed and hooded men entered the Men Culpa club in Amarante, 50km (30 miles) east of Porto, around dawn. They doused the place with fuel and set fire to it. The Lusa news agency reported that most of the bodies were found near a closed emergency exit.

Police have questioned one of the injured, suspecting he may be one of the arsonists. The other two fled the scene immediately after lighting the fire. The third man was trapped with the employees and patrons.

Eight women, all waitresses or hostesses, and four male clients were found dead next to a blocked fire exit.

The dead included a French man who visited the area regularly on business. The other victims were all Portuguese and included Jose Guedes, a former player for the first division Maratimeo Funchal football club.

None of the 14 injured, one of whom also has gunshot wounds, is critical, though many have serious burns, said hospital staff.

The same discotheque suffered an arson attack a year ago, but that time there were no victims.

The Interior Minister, Mr Alberto Costa described the attack, as "an unspeakable act" and hoped "those responsible would be brought to justice rapidly."