Authorities in the Philippines are saying a white, English-speaking man addicted to gambling made off with $2.6 million in chips during a botched robbery before dying by his own hand as he was cornered by police.
36 other gamblers, possibly including Westerners, died in the fire that police say the robber started.
During President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris climate accord, he made note that the U.S. was monitoring the situation for possible ties to terrorism.
Thirty-six people died after a man whom police described as a robber fired shots and set fires inside a casino resort complex in the Philippine capital, Manila, local police said Friday.
All of the victims died from suffocation or smoke inhalation after the suspect set fires to casino tables, National Capital Region Police Chief Oscar Albayalde said. The attacker also apparently killed himself in the incident at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, a southwestern suburb of the Manila.
Local and national police had said for hours that only the gunman died in the incident, which began shortly after midnight Friday (noon Thursday ET).
Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippines National Police, said the suspect burned himself to death in a hotel room during the police pursuit.
U.S. President Donald Trump — speaking in Washington, where he announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord — immediately called the incident a “terrorist attack” and said the United States was closely monitoring reports. He didn’t say how the United States had determined that the attack was terrorism.
But Dela Rosa told reporters after Trump spoke that there was no indication of terrorism. The suspect — who was believed to be a foreign white man who spoke English and acted alone — stuffed casino chips into a bag and tried to flee through the main complex, setting casino tables on fire and firing a weapon at a TV set, Dela Rosa said.
Albayalde said the suspect, whose identity hadn’t been released, carried a long firearm similar to a “baby ArmaLite” — a term often used in the Philippines to refer to a variant of the M16 carbine.
Dela Rosa and Albayalde said the motive appeared to have been robbery. Albayalde said the gunman had likely been addicted to gambling and ransacked a storage area where casino chips were stocked. He said the man made off with chips worth about 130 million pesos, or roughly $2.6 million U.S.
Terrorism concerns are widespread in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern capital region last week in response to ISIS-linked militants’ taking control of the majority Muslim city of Marawi.
But Dela Rosa said the gunman “would have shot at people or triggered a bomb” had he been a terrorist. Still, he warned, ISIS could falsely try to claim responsibility for propaganda purposes.