36 dead after gunman torches casino
MANILA: A gunman burst into a casino in the Philippine capital, setting gaming tables alight and killing at least 36 people who suffocated in thick smoke, in an attack claimed by Islamic State but which officials say was a botched robbery.
The gunman killed himself in a hotel room after being shot and wounded by security guards at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex yesterday, police said.
A second “person of interest” who was in the casino at the time was co-operating with the investigation.
Most of the dead suffocated. Many guests and staff had tried to hide rather than get out of the building when the attack began, the fire brigade said.
“Islamic State fighters carried out the Manila attack in the Philippines,” the militant group’s Amaq news agency said.
But that was rejected by National Security adviser Hermogenes Esperon. Police said they were not looking at other motives.
“If the lone gunman was really an IS terrorist, why did he not shoot and kill people in the casino? He only went for the casino chips,” Esperon said.
The IS claim, which came nearly 24 hours after the attack, also contradicted Ernesto Abella, a spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte.
“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella said. “Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”
Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police, said those who died were in the casino’s main gaming area.
“What caused their deaths is the thick smoke,” he said. “The room was carpeted and, of course, the tables, highly combustible.”
At dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the smouldering complex, which is close to Manila’s airport and an air force base, police said.
“He burned himself inside the hotel room 510,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa said. “He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline.”
Resorts World chief operating officer Stephen Reilly said casino guards had shot and wounded the gunman – armed with what authorities described as a “baby Armalite” – during the attack.
“Severe loss of blood from the gunshot wound significantly slowed down the assailant and resulted to his holing up in the room where he took his own life,” Reilly said.
Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape.
Survivor Magdalena Ramos said people began shouting “Isis! Isis!” when the gunfire began. – Reuters
Closed-circuit footage shows the gunman at the Resorts World Manila complex.