Duterte absolves Daesh in Manila resort attack; House speaker not convinced

Duterte absolves Daesh in Manila resort attack; House speaker not convinced
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In this image made from security video released by Manila Police and Resorts World Manila on Saturday, a gunman walks away after setting fire to a gambling table in the Resorts World Manila entertainment and gambling complex in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, on Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Duterte absolves Daesh in Manila resort attack; House speaker not convinced
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In this image made from security video released by Manila Police and Resorts World Manila on Saturday, a gunman walks up a flight of stairs in the Resorts World Manila entertainment and gambling complex in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, on Friday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Updated 03 June 2017

Duterte absolves Daesh in Manila resort attack; House speaker not convinced

Duterte absolves Daesh in Manila resort attack; House speaker not convinced

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that Daesh militants were not behind the attack on a casino in the capital that killed at least 36 people, supporting a police assessment that it was merely a botched robbery.
The gunman who burst into the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex early on Friday, firing shots, setting gaming tables alight and killing dozens, all suffocating in thick smoke, had been labelled by a top lawmaker as a “lone wolf” terrorist.
“That is not the work of ISIS,” Duterte, using an acronym for Daesh (or Islamic State), told reporters in Cagayan de Oro city where he was visiting troops. “The work of ISIS is more cruel and brutal, they would simply kill people for nothing.”
Clips from the casino CCTV, which police and officials at Resorts World released on Saturday, showed the gunman was firing shots at the ceiling and setting gaming tables and slot machines ablaze.
The gunman, whose identity remains unknown, was caught on camera purportedly stealing casino chips worth 113 million pesos($2.27 million) from a storage room before he was later found by security officers, who shot and wounded him during an exchange of fire.
“Why would you steal plastic you won’t be able to use?” Duterte said. “That guy is crazy.”
Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said on Friday there was no proof linking the casino attack to a protracted urban battle between government troops and Islamist militants in the country’s south. His security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, said all the evidence pointed to an attempt to steal casino chips.

Contrary view
But Pantaleon Alvarez, speaker of the House of Representatives and a close ally of Duterte, said he was not convinced the incident was a criminal case of armed robbery and arson.
“This is a clear example of a ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attack targeting civilians to inflict maximum loss of life and damage to property, as what has happened in other countries,” Alvarez said in a statement.
“We must draw up a clear and better plan to secure Metro Manila and other urban centers from IS-linked groups that we already know will attempt to kill and maim in pursuit of their jihadist ideology,” Alvarez said.
“We must draw up a clear and better plan to secure Metro Manila and other urban centers from IS-linked groups that we already know will attempt to kill and maim in pursuit of their jihadist ideology,” Alvarez said.
On Friday, a veteran journalist who has covered militant groups in the Philippines for two decades, said that the incident was undoubtedly “a Daesh attack.”
Baker Atyani noted that Daesh immediately issued an official statement claiming responsibility for the attack.
“They even named the attacker as Abul Kheir Al-Arkhebieli,” he told Arab News on Friday. “His aim was to inflict maximum damage and take as many lives as he could.”
The fact that he was able to kill 37 people indicates that he succeeded in his goal, said Atyani, adding that he would not classify the attack as an isolated incident.
“This was a well-planned, well-executed operation in the heart of the Philippine capital,” he said.
“If you see the CCTV footage and the images from the resort, it’s very clear that this man was heavily armed and well-equipped. He wasn’t some angry man with a gun who just barged into the hotel. This was a well-planned attack that was meant to cause maximum damage to human lives, and it did.”
This means Daesh has the wherewithal and a huge network of foot soldiers to move fast in Philippine cities and carry out such deadly attacks, Atyani said. “Before they were only confined to the south. No more.”

What the CCTV video shows
The gunman in a casino rampage was seen on security camera footage firing his M4 rifle in the air, setting fires and shooting at security forces in a stairwell.
According to investigators, the victims appeared to have died of smoke inhalation as they hid from the gunman, who doused gambling tables with gasoline and set them ablaze, police said. He later killed himself in a hotel room.
According to police, the gunman stormed into the Resorts World Manila complex early Friday and used gasoline to torch gambling tables, said metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde.
The gunman fled to an adjoining hotel and killed himself.
Police described the suspect as an English-speaking, fair-complexioned man in his 40s who was at least 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall. He was armed with an assault rifle but did not shoot anyone during the attack, police said.
Luchie Arguelles, 61, was playing the slots at around 12:10 a.m. Friday when she saw the man enter the room.
“(He was) all dressed in black, burly, everything was covered, you can’t even see his eyes,” said Arguelles, who was about 9 meters (30 feet) from the gunman. She said he was holding two small bottles of liquid and dousing the baccarat table.
“I said, ‘He’s going to burn that table, he’s going to douse it,’” before she grabbed her husband’s hand and started running.

Diversionary attack?
Many in Manila feared after the attack began that it was linked to ongoing battles with Muslim militants aligned with the Daesh group in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. The fighting has placed much of the country on edge, prompted Duterte to declare martial law across the south and raised fears that IS is gaining a foothold in the country.
The Philippines has faced Muslim insurgencies for decades, though much of the violence has occurred in the troubled south.
At a news conference Saturday, authorities showed the security footage to the media and said the gunman’s identity was still unknown. The taxi driver who dropped the gunman off at the casino said the man spoke fluent Tagalog and appeared normal during the ride, said Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde.
He said terrorism was unlikely because the gunman didn’t shoot anybody.
“He could have shot everybody there,” Albayalde said. “You see he was even changing magazines, he changed magazines at least three times. With all that ammunition, he could have killed hundreds of people inside that establishment. But he did not shoot anybody ... he just burned the casino. Burning the casino could be a diversionary tactic for his escape.”
National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa also said the attack did not appear to be terrorism, but he cautioned that authorities still know very little about the attacker.
“What if we establish the identity and there are leads that will lead toward terrorism? So our findings, our conclusion, will possibly change,” he told DZMM radio.

(With Reuters and AP)