According to government officials in the Philippines, an attack at the Resorts World Manila (RWM) casino was a robbery gone wrong. More than 30 people died as a result. But the Islamic State, whose loyalists are battling government forces in the southern city of Marawi and elsewhere, says its fighter was responsible.
The so-called caliphate issued two claims of responsibility earlier today.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency posted the first on social media. Citing a “security source” in the jihadist organization, Amaq claimed that multiple “fighters executed the Manila attack.”
A separate statement issued by the organization a short while later differed, identifying the perpetrator as a single “brother” known as Abul Khayr al-Arkhabili. He stormed into “a gathering of the belligerent Christians in Resorts World Manila in the Philippines,” killing or wounding 100 people and achieving martyrdom, according to the claim.
It appears that only one gunman was responsible, making Amaq’s claim inaccurate. This was seemingly corrected in the follow-up statement.
Yet, many of the details concerning the gunman are yet to be confirmed. Hours later, authorities were still seeking to identify him. The police released the images seen above in an attempt to determine his identity.
In dismissing a terror-related motivation, officials in the Philippines have pointed to the manner in which the attack was carried out.
According to the Associated Press, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the attack “does not have the slightest signature of terrorism whatsoever.” The AP added: “Police told reporters the man stole more than $2 million in gambling chips and avoided shooting people he encountered in the casino, pointing his gun upward when he fired some shots.” Initial reports say he killed himself. The police also said that most of his victims died of smoke inhalation after he started fires inside the casino.
Jihadists who have sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate certainly have the capability to launch such a simple attack. They are battling government forces in the southern city of Marawi and they have claimed other operations in and around Manila. In April, for instance, Amaq claimed that five Filipino soldiers were killed and six others injured in an improvised explosive device explosion in or near Manila.