36 Die of Suffocation in Manila Casino Shooting, Philippines Denies Terrorism despite ISIS Claims

Philippine police secure the area of the Resorts World Manila hotel and casino complex in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines, 02 June 2017. Police responded following gunshots. Photo: Rolex de la Pena/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Lone gunman fired shots and caused an arson in the Resort World casino in Philippines’ capital Manila before setting himself on fire, and burning to death.
  • 36 people have died of suffocation in the fire, while 54 others were injured jumping off the building as the shooting started.
  • ISIS-linked Filipino operative claimed the shooting had been committed by “lone wolves” affiliated with ISIS.
  • Philippine police have found no evidence of terrorism, saying the suspect did not hurt anybody but tried to steal USD 2.6 million worth of casino chips.
  • Suspect who is a Caucasian is believed to have lost a lot of money gambling, or to have been deranged.

A total of 36 people have died of suffocation in a casino located in Pasay City, in the southern metro area of the Philippine capital Manila, following an attack by a lone gunman armed with an assault rifle who set gambling tables on fire.

Even though the ISIS terrorism group (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”) has claimed responsibility for the incident, the authorities of the Philippines have denied that the shooting and the ensuing fire in the Manila casino are terrorism related, and have said it was most likely a robbery by an unlucky or deranged gambler.

The incident in the Philippine capital came against the backdrop of the ongoing military government military operation against a jihadist insurgency on the island of Mindanao.

Continuing clashes between the Philippine security forces and jihadists from the ISIS-affiliated Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and soldiers, and have displaced tens of thousands of others. In the latest major incident in the fighting, friendly fire from a Philippine airstrike killed 11 government troops.

The clashes began on May 23 leading the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to place the southern island of Mindanao under martial law

Philipine SWAT personnel take their position outside the Resort World Manila hotel in Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines, 02 June 2017. Photo: Ezra Acayan/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Not Act of Terror’

The bodies of a total of 36 people who died of suffocation and smoke inhalation were recovered in the Resort World Manila casino in the capital of the Philippines following the shooting and arson by a lone gunman on early Friday morning, The Manila Bulletin reported.

A lone gunman stormed the casino in Pasay City shortly after midnight armed with a baby armalite, fired at the stock room of chips, took 113 million Philippine pesos (USD 2.6 million) worth of chips, and was later found dead inside one of the hotel’s rooms on Friday morning.

Philippine National Police Director Ronald dela Rosa said the police were not considering terrorism as the motive behind the shooting in the Resort World Manila casino because the gunman did not fire at people but only at the chips stockroom.

The attacker is described as tall and Caucasian. As he began shooting, and then started a fire, at least 54 people were injured when they jumped out of the building’s windows; 18 of them had to be hospitalized.

Police operatives were clearing the hotel floors from the 1st level to the 9th when they spotted the gunman who dashed from the 5th floor down to the 2nd floor.

The gunman then ran back to the 5th floor, holed himself up inside room No. 510 and set the room on fire. He was found dead by operatives, burned beyond recognition.

He did manage to elude police forces for nearly six hours before he locked himself inside Room 510.

The gunman covered himself with a blanket, and poured gasoline to set himself on fire.

“This is not an act of terror. There was no element of violence or threat,” Philippine Police Director De la Rosa said.

He added that the suspect might have acted out on losing a lot of money in the casino, or that he might have been deranged.

De la Rosa pointed out that the suspect did not hurt anyone after forcing his way into the hotel, clutching a rifle and a hand gun.

“He would have shot all the people gambling there [if it had been terrorism]. But he did not hurt anyone,” the Philippine police chief argued.

The suspect, who has not been identified yet, did shoot at television screens, torch the gambling tables, and go into the storage room to get PHP 113 million (USD 2.6 million) worth of casino chips.

A combo handout photo made available by the Philippine National Police (PNP) shows closed-circuit television (CCTV) video captures of the alleged gunman that attacked the Resorts World Manila hotel and casino complex in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines, 02 June 2017. Photo: Philippine National Police handout/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

ISIS Claims

US President Donald Trump first reacted to the news about the shooting in the capital of the Philippines as he was announcing the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement in a speech from the Rose Garden of the White House.

“It is really very sad as to what’s going on throughout the world with terror,” Trump stated amid initial speculation that the Manilo casino incident might be a terrorist attack by ISIS-affiliated militants designed to divert attention from the counter-terrorism operation on the island of Mindanao.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a US terrorism monitor, said an ISIS-linked Filipino operative claimed on Telegram that “lone wolf soldiers” of ISIS had been responsible for the Manila casino incident.

The Philippine authorities, however, have found no evidence of involvement by the ISIS terrorist group which tends to claim responsibility for various incidents around the world even if their perpetrators are unrelated to it.

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