The man who attacked a casino in the Philippines was an indebted gambling addict, not an Islamist terrorist, Filipino officials said. The "Islamic State" previously claimed responsibility for the deadly rampage.
Police identified the late attacker as a 43-year-old Filipino catholic and father of three, Jessie Javier Carlos, on Sunday. Carlos allegedly caused the deaths of 37 people during a botched robbery of a Manila casino on Friday. After the attack, he killed himself in a hotel room by setting himself on fire.
Carlos was "heavily indebted due to being hooked on casino gambling, according to his immediate family," Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde told reporters.
Witnesses and investigators described the suspect as tall, Caucasian-looking, with the build of a soldier and who spoke in both English and Filipino. While the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militia claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the man as one of their jihadists, the government quickly rejected the claims.
"This incident is confined to the act of one man alone as we have always said," Albayalde added.
Carlos owed some 4 million pesos or ($81,000, 71,000 euros) in gambling debts, according to the police chief. He had a history of selling his property, including a vehicle, to support his habit. The alleged attacker also worked for the Filipino Department of Finance as a tax specialist until 2014, when he was fired for failing to truthfully declare his assets and liabilities.
On Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte said that the attack was "not the work of the IS."
"The work of the IS is more cruel and brutal," he added, before visiting a wake for victims. "They will kill people for nothing, not even for a reason."
More than 12,000 people were at the complex during the attack, according to Resorts World Manila where the incident took place. The fatalities occurred due to suffocation by thick smoke from the fire, police said.
Resorts World on Saturday released security footage showing the attack and the suspect, who took a taxi to the entertainment complex, with his M4 rifle hidden in a backpack, where he also had bottles of either gasoline or kerosene.
The suspect torched gaming tables, slot machines and carpets before going to the storage room where casino chips were kept. He stashed 113 million pesos worth of chips into his backpack. The chips have since been recovered.
"If he is really a terrorist, he could have shot everybody there," said Albayalde, commenting on the security footage. "He just burned the casino as probably a diversionary tactic for his escape."
Among the dead in the attack was the wife of a lawmaker and six foreigners, including three from Taiwan and one from South Korea, authorities said.
The casino attack happened as government forces battled IS-aligned militants in Marawi City, 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Manila. The fighting has left more than 180 people dead and displaced nearly 100,000.
jbh,dj/jlw (dpa, AP, Reuters)