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Multiple Deaths in Philippine Casino Attack

The Resorts World Manila suffered dozens of casualties on Thursday after a gunman set fire to casino tables.

Smoke billows from the Resorts World Manila in Metro Manila, Philippines. Erik de Castro / Reuters

Here’s what we know:

—Philippines police chief Roland Dela Rosa said there was no evidence of terrorism following reports of gunfire and explosions at the Resorts World Manila hotel near the Manila international airport.

—He said the gunman, who reportedly killed himself, may have been trying to rob the casino. ISIS had previously appeared to claim responsibility.

—Local police have reported that more than 30 people, mostly women, were found dead on the second floor of the hotel. The victims likely died from smoke inhalation or getting stampeded as people were fleeing the scene.


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ISIS Claims Responsibility Again

Despite claims from the Philippines government that last night’s incident at Resorts World Manila was not an attack, ISIS claimed responsibility again for the attack (last night, a local operative attributed the attack to “lone wolf soldiers,” but that claim was before the government’s explanation for the attack.)

ISIS’s claims today came via Amaq, its propaganda arm:

It’s worth noting here that even if it turns that ISIS was, in fact, behind the attack, we still don’t know the extent of the group’s involvement behind what happened last night. It’s unclear if the gunman—if he turns out to be an Islamist extremist—was radicalized online or if he was acting under the group’s direct orders. It could also turn out that the group, which has steadily lost territory in the Arab world, may be claiming the attack in order to appear more potent than it actually is.

Malacañang Palace Responds to Attack

Malacañang Palace, home of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, issued a response late Thursday night expressing its condolences to the victims and their families. “This is a reminder that civilized society has no place for this kind of violence,” the statement reads, adding that President Duterte “has put the campaign against criminality as a centerpiece program of his administration.”

Duterte is known internationally for his so-called war on drugs, which has led to the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people. Last week, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao following clashes between the country’s military and Muslim insurgent groups, some of which have pledged allegiance to ISIS.  

More Than 30 People Found Dead

Updated at 12:30 a.m. ET

An estimated 36 people have been found dead at Resorts World Manila in the Philippines, according to Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde. A district director for the Philippine National Police said the deceased victims, most of whom were women, were discovered on the second floor of the hotel. The police did not detect any evidence of gunshot wounds, reinforcing their earlier claim that people had suffocated from smoke after the gunman set fire to casino tables. According to Philippine police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, 54 people sustained minor injuries. The Resorts World Manila is reportedly paying the hospital bills of victims at the San Juan De Dios hospital.

CNN Philippines has since released photographs of the suspected gunman, who appears to confirm an earlier police description of a “foreign-looking,” Caucasian male. While Dela Rosa originally reported that his troops killed the gunman, he later said the gunman committed suicide by covering himself in gasoline and lighting himself on fire. Police continue to insist the incident is more likely to be a robbery than a terrorist attack.

Gunman Is Now Dead, Police Report

Updated at 8:54 p.m. ET

The gunman responsible for the attack on the Resorts World Manila is now dead, police have confirmed. Witnesses reported the gunman was wearing a mask at the time of the attack, but police describe him as “foreign-looking, a Caucasian, about six feet tall.” Accounts of how the gunman died continue to differ. In a radio interview, Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Manila police, said the gunman committed suicide. “Our assessment is he burned himself,” Albayalde said. Meanwhile, Philippine police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said the gunman “was killed by our troops.” According to The New York Times, police had been hunting for the gunman for hours before his death.

According to Dela Rosa, there are still no reports of gunshot wounds, but some people were injured from inhaling smoke or getting stampeded as they fled the scene. A spokesman for the Pasay Chapter of the Philippine Red Cross reported that at least 25 people were injured and taken to the hospital, including some who tried to escape by jumping from the hotel’s second floor balcony.

Once more, Dela Rosa was hesitant to link the incident to terrorism, arguing that a robbery was more likely. The gunman reportedly tried to make off with $2.6 million worth of casino chips.“We cannot say this is an act of terror... [the gunman] did not hurt anyone,” Dela Rosa said. “If you are a terrorist, you will sow terror.” He added that ISIS “can claim anything they want as part of their propaganda. But the police will not bite right away ... because we have to establish facts here in order to come up with a conclusion.”

Philippine Police Chief Says No Evidence of Terrorism

Updated at 5:22 p.m. ET

Philippine police chief Ronald Dela Rosa says there is no evidence that Thursday’s reported attack was related to terrorism, the AP has confirmed. According to police, the perpetrator, a lone gunman who remains at large, may have been intending to rob the casino. Dela Rosa informed reporters that the gunman entered the gaming area of the Resorts World Manila with an assault rifle and set fire to tables by pouring gasoline on them. The gunman also reportedly stole gambling chips and shot an LED monitor, but was not aiming at anyone in particular. As of this writing, there are still no reported injuries or gunshot wounds. Rita Katz of the SITE intelligence group, which monitors terrorist groups, previously reported that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack, attributing it to “lone wolf soldiers.”

U.S. Embassy: 'Exercise Caution'

The U.S. Embassy in Manila says:

Local media reports gunfire and explosions at Resorts World Manila near the Manila International Airport.  Exercise caution and review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.  Heed any instructions given by local authorities.

Police 'on Top of the Situation'

Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman, said the police were in control of the situation.

“We are monitoring the situation,” he said, according to Reuters. “The police is on top of the situation. We will issue a statement when we have a complete picture of the incident.”

Trump Reacts to Attack

Speaking at the White House, President Trump said: “We’re closely monitoring the situation and I will continue to give updates if anything happens during this period of time, but it is really very sad as to what is going on throughout the world with terror.”

'As of This Time, There Are No Reported Injuries,' Resort Exec Says

Stephen Reilly, the chief operating officers of Resorts World Manila, told reporters: “We are still investigating the situation. The [Philippine National Police] s on site. We have evacuated the building to make sure our patrons, our staff are safe.”

He added the building is under lockdown state until the area is evacuated.

“I can confirm shots were fired,” he said. “I cannot confirm how many gunmen are in the building.” He said he could not confirm who was behind the attack.

“As of this time, there are no reported injuries,” he said.

It’s not known how the attacker or attackers entered the building. Reilly said his staff had practiced for such scenarios.

ISIS Appears to Claim Responsibility

Rita Katz, who runs the SITE intelligence group, which monitors terrorist groups, says ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, attributing it to “lone wolf soldiers.”

Reported Attack Coincides With Military Operation on ISIS-Controlled City

Although we don’t know who’s behind the reported gunfire at the Resorts World Manila, the Philippines government has been conducting airstrikes on the southern city of Marawi, which was overrun last week by an Islamist group linked to ISIS.

As my colleague Yasmeen Serhan reported at the time:

More than 100 people have been killed and several thousand displaced since the Maute Islamist militant group first entered and overran Marawi, a Muslim-majority city located on the southern island of Mindanao. The clashes reportedly began after government forces attacked the militants for harboring Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and ISIS’s designated leader in southeast Asia. Abu Sayyaf, which is considered one of the smallest yet most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines, is notorious for kidnapping for ransom and beheading hostages, as well as for targeting civilians and the army.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law last week in Mindanao—a precaution he said he might apply to the whole country if he deemed it necessary.

Emergency Services Rush to the Area

The Philippines Daily Inquirer reports:

Fire trucks, ambulances and police cars have already rushed to area.

Guests and employees were asked to exit the building; others ran out after hearing gun fire from the second floor.

There were also reports that people were injured after jumping from the resort’s second floor.

Resorts World Manila is a casino complex in Pasay, near Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal, which serves Manila, the Philippines capital.

'We Ask for Your Prayers'

Resorts World Manila is tweeting about the reports of “gunfire from unidentified men.”

Resort Under Lockdown

There are reports of gunfire and explosions at Resorts World Manila, a casino complex near the Manila airport.

Thick smoke coming off from the top floor or Resorts World Manila. Gunshots were allegedly heard by people inside the casino area.

— Dexter Cabalza (@dexcabalzaINQ) June 1, 2017

Here’s more from the resort:

Resorts World Manila is currently on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men.

— Resorts World Manila (@rwmanila) June 1, 2017