Dozens dead after gunman torches Philippine casino
MANILA – Agence France-PresseA masked gunman set fire to a gaming room at a casino in the Philippine capital on June 2, igniting a toxic blaze that killed 36 people, authorities said, but they insisted it was not a terrorist attack.
The victims suffocated inside one of the main gambling venues of the upscale Resorts World Manila, while dozens of other people were injured in a panicked crush to escape, police said.
The gunman committed suicide inside a hotel room by burning himself about five hours after storming the casino with an M4 assault rifle and a bottle of petrol that he used to start the fire, police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa and other police chiefs insisted the assailant was not carrying out a terrorist attack, pointing out he did not shoot anyone, and said it appeared to be a bizarre robbery attempt by a “deranged” man.
“This is not an act of terror. There is no element of violence, threat or intimidation that leads to terrorism,” Dela Rosa told reporters.
However 36 people died from inhaling smoke from a fire that spread quickly because of flammable carpet on the gaming room floors, according to Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde.
The gunman initially disappeared into the chaos of smoke and running people, leading to a five-hour manhunt through the complex, which also includes a hotel and shops, according to Dela Rosa.
He said the assailant, who appeared to be a foreigner because he spoke English and looked Caucasian, was found just before dawn in a hotel room having committed suicide.
“He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a thick blanket, apparently poured petrol on the blanket and burned himself,” Dela Rosa said.
“This particular situation in Manila is not related in any way to a terrorist attack,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.
Dela Rosa said the man, acting alone, walked into one of the gaming rooms and fired the rifle at a large television screen, then poured gasoline onto a gambling table and set it alight.
He said the man then fired again at a stock room containing gambling chips and filled a backpack with chips worth 113 million pesos ($2.3 million).
The man left the room and went upstairs to the hotel section, but left the backpack, according to Dela Rosa.
The police chief said 18 of 54 injured people were in hospital. He said the others sustained only minor injuries.