Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that ISIS hardliners 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 robbery.
“That is not the work of ISIS,” Duterte 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.”
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 labeled by a top lawmaker as a “lone wolf” terrorist.
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.”
But Pantaleon Alvarez, speaker of the lower house of Congress and a close ally 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.
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 militants in the country’s south. His security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, said all the evidence pointed to an attempt to steal casino chips.
“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.
The stolen chips have been recovered.
Police said on Saturday there were two “persons of interest” who have connections with the gunman and are cooperating with the investigation.