MANILA – The number of fatalities in the Resorts World Manila attack has risen to 38, according to the head of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).
NCRPO director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde said the dead included the gunman, whose identity is still being determined by authorities because there was no ID found with his body
Albayalde said 37 bodies were found at the second floor of the hotel-casino while the charred remains of the attacker was discovered in a room at the fifth floor of Resorts World Manila. The gunman burned himself to death.
There are conflicting reports on whether the police have a person of interest in their custody.
According to a CNN Philippines report, Albayalde said they have no “person of interest”. Police also said that a vehicle believed to have been used by the gunman was later traced to another person.
Albayalde, however, said investigators were certain that the attacker came into the hotel in a car because CCTV footage showed him coming from the second floor parking area.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Southern Police District (SPD) director Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario as saying that they have in their custody a “person of interest” who admitted he was at the hotel-casino on the night of the assault.
Apolinario said they were able to track down the person of interest through the official receipt and car registration of the vehicle that the attacker used.
But both police officials agreed on one thing – the Resorts World Manila was not a terror act but “an act of a deranged person”.
They said the gunman attempted to rob the casino as evidenced by a bag filled with casino chips worth 113 million pesos, adding that the attacker did not shoot at anyone but only fired shots at the storage room and in the air.
The Islamic State (ISIS), however, has claimed responsibility for the attack but offered no evidence to back it up. According to a CNN report, the Amaq news agency came out with a statement from ISIS that said “Islamic State fighters carried out” the attack.
A follow-up statement from the ISIS’ east Asia division identified the lone attacker as Abou al-Kheir al-Arkhebieli and boasted about the number of “Christians killed or wounded” before he “took his life.”
Albayalde downplayed the claim saying: “They can always claim whatever they want to claim. They have this reputation of claiming all atrocities all over the world to perpetuate themselves to gain global notoriety. There is no truth that the incident is a terror act.”
Meanwhile, Apolinario said the fatalities were found at the second floor, spread across the casino area, hallways and the bathroom. They died of suffocation from smoke after the attacker burned gaming tables and carpets using a liter of gasoline he brought with him.
The gunman’s remains were found in Room 510 with a machine gun and .38 calibre pistol beside him, said Philippine National Police chief General Ronald Dela Rosa.
Resorts World Manila chief operating officer Stephen Reilly revealed that their security shot the attacker before he committed suicide and that the blood loss slowed him down.
The hotel-casino released the names of the fatalities composed of 22 guests and 13 employees. Four guests and two employees are still unidentified as of press time today.
Among the dead was Elizabeth Panlilio-Gonzales, wife of Pampanga Congressman Aurelio Gonzales.
Meanwhile, the US and UK embassies have issued advisories to their citizens in the Philippines to avoid going to the Resorts World Manila area while the Australian embassy advised their nationals to take extra caution while in the Philippines because of the incident at Resorts World. GAC/Expat Media
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