Attacker sets fire in crowded Philippine casino, killing 36

Posted: Updated:
This image made from closed circuit television made available by the Philippine National Police on Friday, June 2, 2017, shows the gunman at the Resorts World Manila complex in Manila, Philippines. This image made from closed circuit television made available by the Philippine National Police on Friday, June 2, 2017, shows the gunman at the Resorts World Manila complex in Manila, Philippines.
MANILA, Philippines -

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - A gunman stormed a crowded Manila casino early Friday and used gasoline to set gambling tables on fire, creating clouds of smoke that killed at least 36 people, police said. The gunman fled with more than $2 million in stolen casino chips, then forced his way into a room in an adjoining hotel and killed himself.

Authorities suspect the man, who has not yet been identified, was trying to rob the casino at Resorts World Manila, a complex of hotels, restaurants, stores and a sprawling multi-floor gambling area.

"Either he lost in the casino and wanted to recoup his losses or he went totally nuts," said Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde. While an Islamic State group-linked Filipino said on social media that "lone wolf soldiers" from the group were behind the attack, police noted the man didn't shoot anyone he encountered. The only gunshot wound was a guard at the complex who accidentally shot himself, authorities said.

"He would have shot all the people gambling" if his goal was terrorism, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa said. None of the bodies had gunshots, authorities said.

Police saw no connection to nearly two weeks of fighting with Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group in the southern city of Marawi.

Dela Rosa said security video showed the gunman ignoring a guard who tried to question him at the complex's entrance, then going straight to the casino. He stuffed a backpack with gambling chips, fired his assault rifle at TV screens and set gambling tables on fire by pouring gasoline onto them from a 2-liter bottle he carried, dela Rosa said. It was not clear how he smuggled the gasoline and rifle into the crowded casino.

The gunman, whom dela Rosa described as "white, with a mustache," about 6 feet tall and English speaking, fled the gambling area and barged into a room on the 5th floor of Maxims Hotel, which is part of the Resorts complex. He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a blanket, doused himself with gasoline and then set himself on fire, dela Rosa said. He carried no identity documents, police said.

The bag of high-value gambling chips - with an estimated worth of 113 million to 130 million pesos, or more than $2 million - was found in a toilet.

The attack sent hundreds of people fleeing through the complex and into the night. A South Korean died of a possible heart attack suffered during the evacuation, the Foreign Ministry said. More than 70 people suffered mostly minor injuries in the stampede to escape.

Ronald Romualdo, a maintenance worker at Resorts World, said he and his colleagues heard gunshots and saw people smashing the windows on the second and third floors to escape.

"We took out a ladder to save them. We were able to save many of them," he said. "But one woman I was trying to save fell from the second floor. ... I could not carry her." He said the woman was not moving after she fell, but he didn't know what happened to her.

About 90 minutes after the attack began, Resorts World Manila said on its Facebook page that it was on lockdown following reports of gunfire and it was working to ensure the safety of guests and workers.

As news of the attack spread, President Donald Trump offered America's thoughts and prayers to the Philippines.

"It is really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror," he said from the White House Rose Garden. Trump said he was "closely monitoring the situation."

The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism monitor, said an Islamic State group-linked Filipino operative who provides daily updates on the clashes in Marawi claimed IS "lone wolf soldiers" were responsible for the attack.

An English message by the operative was distributed across several pro-IS Telegram chat groups, SITE said. According to SITE, he wrote: "The lone wolf soldiers of Khilafah attack the heart of Kufar the city of Manila in Resort World."

The unrest in Marawi has sparked fears that militants might attack elsewhere to divert the focus of thousands of troops trying to quell the siege. But dela Rosa said, "We cannot attribute this to terrorism without concrete evidence."

___

Associated Press journalists Teresa Cerojano, Joeal Calupitan and Bullit Marquez contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the dollar value of the stolen chips was more than $2 million, not $200,000.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsSlideshowsMore>>

  • Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Guide: National park sites in the tristate area

    Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

    A guide to the national park sites and trails on Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City and the Hudson Valley.

  • Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students organize walkouts over gun violence

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

    Students from across the country streamed out of their schools on April 20, 2018 in the latest round of gun-control activism following the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

  • Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Photos: Devils 2018 playoffs

    Wednesday, April 18 2018 5:53 PM EDT2018-04-18 21:53:12 GMT

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

    A series of photos of the New Jersey Devils in the 2018 NHL playoffs.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."