ISIS Claims Responsibility for Deadly Manila Casino Fire Despite Denial From Philippine Police

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack Friday at a casino in the Philippine capital that left 37 people dead; however, police continue to deny what happened was terror-related.

A lone gunman entered the Resorts World Manila early Friday, firing shots from an assault rifle and setting fire to gambling tables. Most of the victims are believed to have died due to suffocation from the smoke.

ISIS claimed that “Islamic State fighters carried out” the attack in a statement Friday by its Amaq News Agency. A follow-up statement from the group’s east Asia division referred to only one attacker — whom it named as Abou al-Kheir al-Arkhebieli — and boasted about the number of “Christians killed or wounded” before he “took his life.”

But police said there was “no truth” to the assertion.

“They can always claim whatever they want to claim,” said Oscar Albayalde, police chief for the Manila area. “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.”

The sequencing of ISIS’ claims is not unusual. But CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank pointed out that the first claim of responsibility referred to multiple attackers, while the second mentioned only one.

“Until any actual proof emerges that ISIS or any other terrorist actor had a role in what police have described as a non-terrorism-related attack, one has to be skeptical of the ISIS claim,” Cruickshank said, adding that Abou al-Kheir al-Arkhebieli would likely be a nom de guerre.

Philippine government forces have been battling ISIS-linked militants on the southern island of Mindanao for control of the city of Marawi for more than a week.

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SOURCE: CNN, James Griffiths, Jinky Jorgio and Hamdi Alkhshali

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