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Smoke from fire kills 36 in Philippine casino attack, other owners boost security

A gunman stormed a crowded Manila casino early Friday and used gasoline to set gambling tables on fire, creating clouds of smoke that swept through the crowds and killed at least 36 people, police said. The gunman, who had fled with more than $2 million in stolen casino chips, then forced his way into a room in an adjoining hotel and killed himself.

Authorities suspect the man, who has not yet been identified, was trying to rob the casino at Resorts World Manila, a complex of hotels, restaurants, stores and a sprawling multi-floor gambling area.

“Either he lost in the casino and wanted to recoup his losses or he went totally nuts,” said Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde. While an Islamic State-linked Filipino said on social media that “lone wolf soldiers”’ of the Islamic State group were behind the attack, police noted the man didn’t shoot anyone he encountered. The only gunshot wound was a guard at the complex who accidentally shot himself, authorities said.

Police saw no connection to nearly two weeks of fighting with Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group in the southern city of Marawi.

Dela Rosa said security footage showed the gunman ignoring a guard who tried to question him at the complex’s entrance, then going straight to the casino. He stuffed a backpack with gambling chips, fired his assault rifle at TV screens and set gambling tables on fire by pouring gasoline onto them from a 2-liter bottle he carried, dela Rosa said. It was not clear how he smuggled the gasoline and rifle into the crowded casino.

The gunman, who dela Rosa described as “white, with a mustache,”’ about 6 feet tall and English speaking, fled the gambling area and barged into a room on the 5th floor of Maxims Hotel, which is part of the Resorts complex. He laid down on the bed, covered himself with a blanket, doused himself with gasoline and then set himself on fire, Dela Rosa said. He carried no identity documents, police said.

The billionaire owner of the City of Dreams casino resort in Manila will increase security at his complex, he said on Friday, following the deaths of at least 36 people at the nearby Resorts World Manila.

“With an incident like this, especially at Resorts World Manila, we certainly would ratchet that (security) up even more…certainly an issue we will buckle down on,” Lawrence Ho, 40, who owns casinos in Manila and Macau, told in Hong Kong.

Ho declined to say how he would increase security but said his casinos already make use of surveillance and counter intelligence measures, metal detectors and security guards.

“We get news about what happens around the region. Occasionally, there are instability within geopolitics in the Philippines and the ASEAN region, so we take it (security) very seriously,” he said.

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