At least 36 dead in attack on Philippines casino: official

By , News FOXBusiness

Smoke rises from the Resorts World Manila complex early Friday, June 2, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. Gunshots and explosions rang out early Friday at a mall, casino and hotel complex near Manila's international airport in the Philippine capital, ... sparking a security alarm amid an ongoing Muslim militant siege in the country's south. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

At least 36 people died after a gunman burst into a Manila casino, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, a spokesman for the Philippine president said on Friday, in what officials believe was a botched robbery attempt.

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There was no evidence linking the attack at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex to fighting between government troops and Islamist militants in the country's south, said Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.

The country has struggled with turmoil in the Mindanao region, due to the presence of terror group Abu Sayyaf, an affiliate of both al-Qaeda and ISIS. Intel officials estimate that an alliance of at least 10 Islamist militant groups have a heavy presence in the southern Philippines.

Last week, the Philippine military launched a failed attempt to capture the Isnilon Hapilon, the self-proclaimed ISIS leader in the Philippines. Late last month, ISIS-linked militants carried out a series of attacks in the southern part of the country.

The U.S. plays a large role in security in the country, providing $441 million in security funding to the Philippines from 2002 to 2013. In 2014, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a 10-year accord allowing the U.S. to establish military bases in the Philippines.

The country is a popular tourist destination with 650,000 Americans visiting the country each year. About 220,000 Americans, many of them military veterans, live in the island nation, according to State Department figures.

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Today, the two countries have a strong trade and investment relationship, with over $25 billion in goods and services traded. In late April, U.S. President Donald Trump invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House.

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