Philippines Casino Attack Leaves 37 Dead in Manila, Police Dismiss Terror Connections

Posted on: June 2, 2017, 11:27h. 

Last updated on: June 2, 2017, 01:01h.

A lone gunman walked into the Resorts World casino in Manila just after midnight on Friday, and began shooting into banks of slot machines and ATMs before dousing game tables with gasoline and lighting them on fire.

Manila casino attack
Emergency personnel rushed to the Resorts World hotel and casino complex in Manila as confused and terrified patrons fled mayhem that would leave 37 dead. (Image: WION)

His actions left 37 casino employees and patrons dead from smoke inhalation, and more than 50 injured in the ensuing panic.

The gunman-arsonist, who so far hasn’t been identified, eventually lit himself on fire while lying on a hotel bed before shooting himself in an apparent suicide, police said.

The terrorist group known as ISIS has tried to take responsibility for the attack, but police are denying any such links, calling it a botched robbery instead.

Resorts World is a complex of hotels, casinos, shops, and restaurants in Newport City, an affluent district of the Philippine capital.

Robbery Gone Awry?

Several people were trapped on the second floor while the perpetrator shot at slot machines and lit gaming tables and carpets on fire. They attempted to break windows to escape and one person said they witnessed a woman jump out of the building.

Shortly after the rampage, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa downplayed the likelihood that any terrorism was involved.

“For now, we can say that this is not an act of terror,” he said at a press briefing. “There is no element of violence, threat or intimidation that leads to terrorism.”

Dela Rosa instead called it an attempted robbery by a possibly deranged person who acted alone. During the mayhem, the gunman supposedly grabbed fistfuls of casino chips, but left them in a backpack outside the room where he killed himself.

Dela Rosa told media that choking black smoke led to the fatalities, and that no people were shot other than the gunman, who was hit by an armed security guard before killing himself.

Resorts World Manila attacker
Police in Manila released these surveillance photos of the suspect in the Resorts World casino attack. (Image: CNN Philippines)

No Credible Connection to ISIS Terrorists

The ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency claimed that “Islamic State fighters” were responsible, though they later changed their story to reflect facts on the ground that suggested only one assailant was involved.

“They can always claim whatever they want to claim,” said Oscar Albayalde, police chief for the Manila area. “They have this reputation of claiming all atrocities all over the world to perpetuate themselves to gain global notoriety. There is no truth that the incident is a terror act.”

US President Donald Trump also called it a “terror attack,” despite assurances from Philippine authorities that they had seen no connections to any politically motivated terrorism.

In recent weeks the Philippines has been fighting militants that are supposedly connected to the Islamic State on the island of Mindanao, about 640 miles from Manila. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law just a week earlier and insisted he would extend the action on other parts of the country if necessary to bring the threat under control.

The US has been particularly weary of vulnerabilities to “lone wolf” and other forms of terrorist attacks in casinos. A recently released Islamic State propaganda video featured imagery that portrayed the Las Vegas Strip as a target.