MANILA, Philippines Security footage shows the man responsible for one of the Philippine capital s deadliest attacks in years casually exiting a taxi just after midnight and walking calmly into a vast entertainment and gambling complex like any other visitor. Shortly afterward, he dons a black ski mask, slips on an ammunition vest and pulls an M4 carbine assault rifle out of his backpack. What follows borders on the surreal: a slow-motion arson attack and robbery so methodical and unhurried, the gunman appears to walk much of the way even as he exchanges fire with security forces and flees, slightly wounded, up a stairwell.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the early Friday rampage at the Resorts World Manila complex. At least 37 patrons and employees died, mostly from smoke inhalation as they tried to hide, while the gunman fled to an adjoining hotel and reportedly killed himself. The video footage shown to reporters Saturday, though, bolsters the government s case that this was a botched robbery by a lone attacker with no known link to terrorism. Police said that s exactly why they wanted to release it. In his first remarks on the assault, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that the attacker was simply crazy. He questioned what the gunman was going to do with the $2 million horde of poker chips he had tried to haul away. He also discounted any links to the Islamic State group, saying this is not the work of ISIS. The work of the ISIS is more cruel and brutal.
Despite some initially contradictory accounts of the chaos, what is known so far appears to back up that claim. Although the attacker was well armed Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said he was carrying 90 bullets in three rifle clips there are no confirmed reports that he shot any civilians. Instead, he fired into the ceilings, scattering panicked crowds, some of whom jumped out windows to escape what they believed to be a terror attack. Albayalde said the security footage also indicated a clear motive. The gunman headed straight for a storage room in the back of the casino that contained poker chips. He is seen shooting through several thick white doors, breaking down one of them at 12:18 a.m. Friday only 11 minutes after his arrival.
More than 12,000 people were in the complex at the time; most were successfully evacuated.
He could have shot everybody there, Albayalde added. He could have killed hundreds of people inside that establishment. But he did not shoot anybody he just burned the casino. Burning the casino could be a diversionary tactic for his escape. By nightfall Saturday, the gunman s identity was still unknown. The taxi driver who dropped him off told police said his passenger spoke fluent Tagalog and appeared normal during the ride. The gunman asked him just one thing: to change the radio channel to the news instead of music, Albayalde said.
All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual, said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella. National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa also said the attack did not appear to be terrorism, but he cautioned that authorities still know very little about the attacker.
What if we establish the identity and there are leads that will lead toward terrorism? So our findings, our conclusion, will possibly change, he told DZMM radio.
The Philippines has faced Muslim insurgencies for decades, though much of the violence has occurred in the troubled south. Many in Manila feared Friday s attack was linked to ongoing battles with militants aligned with the Islamic State group in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. The fighting has placed the country on edge and prompted Duterte to declare martial law across the south. IS carried two statements claiming responsibility for the attack, but they contained discrepancies. One mentioned fighters, the other just one fighter a person who goes by the nom de guerre Brother Abu al-Kheir al-Arkhabili. One of the statements also said the attacker died as a martyr which would not make sense if he shot himself in an evacuated hotel room at the end of the night, as the police claim. Suicide is forbidden in Islam. Armeen Gomez, chief security officer at Resorts World, said witnesses at the scene had testified to seeing multiple assailants. But he believes their accounts were likely confused by the chaos and panic. Beyond the unidentified gunman, the only other people armed in the images released Saturday were the security forces clearing the area.
The footage shows the attacker entering an elevator with two women behind him, shortly after arrival. He pulls a mask down across his face as he walks out, and minutes later, he strolls into a part of the mall with round dining tables, bypassing the metal detector. As a security officer runs after him, he whips a rifle out of his backpack, sending panicked throngs fleeing. This was the moment people began screaming, ISIS! ISIS! Gomez said. Pushing deeper into the complex, the gunman enters the casino zone. A shocked man behind a counter ducks as the attacker fires into the air. He then begins dousing gambling tables and slot machines, igniting each with a lighter.
Luchie Arguelles, 61, was playing slots just after midnight when she saw the man enter. (He was) all dressed in black, burly, everything was covered, you can t even see his eyes, said Arguelles, who was about 9 meters (30 feet) away. She said he was holding two small bottles.
I said, He s going to burn that table, he s going to douse it, before she grabbed her husband s hand and started running. In the footage s last scenes, the gunman is seen exchanging fire with one of the hotel s security officers at a stairwell doorway. Gomez said the gunman was shot in the leg, but after walking up a couple steps, the assailant walks back down to casually shut the door almost as if he had left it open by mistake. Later on the fifth floor, he sets part of a red hallway carpet ablaze, filling the corridor with smoke. Hotel security had already evacuated guests.
At 1:46 a.m., the gunman kicks in the door of Room 501 and goes inside. Police soon arrive, aiming the white lights on their weapons through the smoke-filled hall.
The attacker, they say, set a final fire in the room and was found dead with a gunshot wound to the mouth.
Associated Press journalists Teresa Cerojano and Kiko Rosario in Manila and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the security guard s name is Armeen Gomez, not Amreen Gomez, and to give the sequence of events in timeline.
Faulkner County residents honored eight local officers who died in the line of duty during a memorial ceremony at Simon Park on Thursday. The Conway Police Department, University of Central Arkansas Police Department and Faulkner County Sheriff s Office gathered at Simon Park, welcoming the community, to honor the county s fallen officers as well as other fallen officers from across the nation.
Every year in May we join with the rest of the country in recognizing National Police Week by honoring those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their communities and citizens, Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin said. This year s ceremony was the 10th year CPD, UCAPD and FCSO joined forces to honor the county s fallen heroes.
Sheriff Tim Ryals opened the ceremony by leading the crowd in the pledge of allegiance, which was followed by the FCSO Honor Guard posting the colors.
We honor our fallen officers for many reasons, Spradlin said. It s a reminder to our community that the deceased officer gave his life to protect our citizens. It is a life needlessly taken, but willingly sacrificed. It s a celebration of their life also. Much like the fallen military, we feel that those that give their life for their community or country should always be honored and never forgotten. Everyone is not willing to make that sacrifice, so we recognize and show appreciation to those that do. Spradlin and Ryals each handed roses to officers and deputies of their departments respectively one-by-one for each fallen officer. Roses were ceremonially placed in front of pictures of each of the county s fallen officers. CPD fallen officers include:
Patrolman Robert W. Bob Martin who was killed by gunfire on March 24, 1981.
Patrolman Barry Kent McDaniel who was killed by vehicular assault on April 2, 1982.
Patrolman Lawrence Ray Noblitt who was killed by gunfire on Nov. 7, 1988.
Patrolman William Will McGary who was hit by a vehicle and killed while directing traffic at the scene of a crash on Feb. 1, 2013.
FCSO fallen officers include:
Deputy Oscar L. Honea who was killed by gunfire on Oct. 23, 1914.
Deputy William E. Hathaway was killed by gunfire on Aug. 5, 1931.
Deputy Jimmy Jim Wooley died as the result of a fall while investigating a theft on Aug. 5, 2003.
Deputy Hans Fifer died from a heart attack during SWAT training on April 8, 2013. Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry shared stories of each of Conway s fallen officers. He reminisced on the years past where he played on a softball team the Faulkner Fuzzys with Martin.
He said he was thankful that Noblit painted a red truck he had and noted that while working for the fire department he would often bump into McDaniel during shift changes. That was while Conway Fire Department s Central Station was located on Chestnut Street, he said. Castleberry said he did not know McGary on a personal level but heard from many he was a great son, great brother [and] a great man.
The men and women of all police agencies in Faulkner County, Arkansas, play an essential role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Faulkner County, he said. Castleberry read aloud a proclamation on behalf of the city, which addressed the need for county residents to know and understand the duties and services of law enforcement officers.
County Judge Jim Baker said it was important to recognize these officers for their services.
With appropriate observances in which all our people may join in honoring law enforcement officers, past and present, who by faithful devotion to their duties, have rendered a dedicated service to their communities and have established for themselves a reputation for preserving the rights and security of all citizens. Sgt. Ray Britton said an officer falls in the line of duty every 53 hours across the nation.
To date, there have been 50 line of duty deaths nationwide, that s a 35 percent increase from the same time last year. Here in Arkansas, we have had one line of duty death to date. It took place just last week. Britton took a moment to honor Kevin Mainhart.
Mainhart served in law enforcement for more than 20 years before he was shot and killed last week during a traffic stop he made after responding to a domestic disturbance call from a home on Gum Springs Road in Dardanelle. He had stopped the vehicle because he had possible information the suspect, later identified as 42-year-old James Arthur Brown, was connected to the disturbance on Gum Springs Road. Britton also recognized three officers who died in the line of duty in Arkansas last year Miller County Corrections Officer Lisa Anne Mauldin, McCrory Patrolman Robert Aaron Barker and Sebastian County Cpl. William Pressley Cooper. Ryals said law enforcement is a unique profession.
He said the sheriff s office grieves for each fallen officer as well as their departments and their families.
We feel the pain when another department loses an officer, he said. We grieve with these departments as if we lost one of our own. The brotherhood in law enforcement is very much like a fraternity; like the bond military men and women share or athletes on a highly competitive team. We learn to trust our lives with our partners in uniform. We honor them for their sacrifice.
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute followed by the Conway Fire Department s Pipes and Drums band performing Taps.
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers.
- These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park.
- What does the head of Guatemala s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?
On the 26th of April, two reporters flew over the Laguna del Tigre National Park, located in the San Andr s municipality in the department of Pet n, intending to monitor fires that were devastating the protected area. Whilst up in the air, the plane flew over the Xan oil field, which has been in operation for the Franco-British company Perenco since 2001. It was here that the industrial plant, chimneys and their large tarmac runway could be seen. They then continued to fly north when suddenly they spotted what was clearly a secret runway: a basic 1km strip that crossed a field and a bit of forest, and that started barely 25 meters from one of Perenco s oil wells, the Xan-30.
Bird s-eye view of the secret runway, located alongside the oil company Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manual Morillo.
The experienced pilot who flew over the area was in no doubt that this was a runway. He pointed out that its orientation was ideal given the prevailing winds. Afterwards, the captured photos were shown to Aldo Chapas, the head of the Guatemalan anti-drug unit. The public prosecutor confirmed that the strip matches up to a secret runway but in order to confirm it, there would need to be an investigation and the General Civil Aviation Authority would need to be consulted to see if the landing strip had authorisation.
When the head of Civil Aviation, Carlos Vel zquez Monge, was asked which runways within the Laguna del Tigre National Park have authorisation, it turned out that Perenco s tarmac runway is the only one. This supposed secret runway is a bit paradoxical: half way up the strip it goes into a small forest area. It s clear that there are trees on the edge of the strip. In talking with that pilot and the public prosecutor, there are two possible explanations: either the strip isn t yet finished and the owners haven t got round to removing all the vegetation, or this small clump of woodland serves to hide the light aircraft that land there. What s more, the cows that graze amongst the trees demonstrate that the plot of land has been occupied by someone who has invaded a protected area.
Cattle can be seen grazing at both sides of the secret runway. Photo by Manuel Morillo. Perenco s airstrip. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
Two days after the flight, the journalists travelled to the Xan area and visited the Xan-30 well. Walking around, it was clear that there were only a few steps between the apparent secret runway and the fence surrounding the oil well. The strip is about four meters wide and the vegetation on either side has been burned, although some small pieces are beginning to sprout again. This could indicate that the fire, which struck the park two weeks before the visit, cleared a part of the landing area that was hidden among vegetation.
Secret runway located alongside the oil company Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manual Morillo.
The Xan-30 well is situated 5km from the Perenco s focal area and 6km from a military detachment for jungle operations. The apparent secret runway is easy to get to, both the runway and the well are adjacent to the main road that runs through the Laguna del Tigre National Park. The dirt track road which is very well maintained connects those living in El Naranjo to the Xan field, and then continues towards Los Cerritos and La Paz, which are on the border with Mexico. Once in the oil-production area, signs lead the way to well 30. During the visit, journalists chatted with one of Perenco s technicians who, alongside a security officer from the company Visersa, carried out routine checks on the other Xan wells. The technician explained that all 46 Xan wells were checked every day.
The Laguna del Tigre National Park s main road runs adjacent to the secret runway and the Xan-30 well. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
Perenco documents show that Xan-30 is an active injection well, in which the oil tanker reintroduces the acid water produced by oil extraction into the subsoil. Perenco executives were asked if they knew about the existence of runway. The director of corporate cross-border affairs, Antonio Minondo Ayau, responded in an email: We had no knowledge of the existence of the runway you re talking about.
It was also asked if the company knows any of the people who had occupied the land surrounding the well. No, we do not know the identities of those who live on the land surrounding the Xan-30 well, was the response from Minondo Ayau. He added: Perenco Guatemala on several occasions has denounced the existence of invasions and fires to the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP).
The secret runway and Perenco s Xan-30 well from another angle. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
The Army s press executive, colonel William Garc a, stated that he was not up-to-date regarding the construction of a secret runway next to the Xan-30 well. He said that one of the tasks of the Army is to patrol the Laguna del Tigre in order to detect and destroy all such types of illegal infrastructures. He indicated that there are currently 65 runways in the park, 23 of which have been blown up.
Perenco in the department of Pet n
According to the public prosecutor, Aldo Chapas, the proximity of the Laguna del Tigre reserve to Mexico makes it a key place for drug traffickers, since their light aircrafts from South America can touch down there, and the drugs can then be brought into Mexico. During the flight over the park, another two secret runways were actually spotted. However, these were in remote areas such as Tri ngulo Candelaria, north of the Laguna del Tigre National Park, and not in any industrial areas that are strategically important for Guatemala, like the area in which Perenco operates, nor are they as close to a military detachment.
Perenco s Xan-30 well. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
The public prosecutor, Aldo Chapas, stated: When a secret runway is discovered, it s assumed that it s used for drug trafficking. He also added that it can also be used for other illegal activities such as human trafficking, people smuggling and the smuggling of firearms or contraband. A report published in 2011 by the US organisation Insight Crime titled Grupos de Poder en Pet n: Territorio, pol tica y negocios (Power Groups in Pet n: Territory, Politics and Deals) presented the role of Perenco in the network of forces and alliances that are in Pet n, and in the Laguna del Tigre National Park in particular. According to the , the transnational company, alongside Manuel Baldiz n, Manuel Barqu n, Juli n Tesuc n, Javier L pez (all local leaders from the Conservative Patriotic and Unionist Parties) and the Mendoza family, who are linked to organised crime in Guatemala (drug trafficking, land grabbing and murders), are the sometimes-rival, sometimes-allied forces that occupy the area.
Bird s-eye view of Perenco s industrial site. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
In this amalgam of interests, the company Perenco plays a central role and may continue to do so depending on its executive and legislative support, the backing (real or otherwise) of the communities that live in the area and cohabitation with criminal groups who have already taken over substantial pieces of land within the protected area, stated the report from 2011.
In the presence of the military detachment that guards the entrance to the Xan oil field, there is a gate and a control station run by the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) and the Army. When the group of journalists were passing through these controls, the authorities had just stopped a pick-up truck carrying a group of people from the countryside. They were ordered to get out of the truck and line up. Under the watchful eye of the soldiers and CONAP park rangers, they had to open their rucksacks, empty them and lay out all of their belongings on the white dust of the road. From their forbearing expression and from the testimonies of several of the locals, it s clear that these kinds of checks are part of their daily routine.
Soldiers form the military detachment located at the entrance to the Xan oil field search the belongings of a group of locals. Photo by Manuel Morillo.
15 minutes away from this check point, as if it were no big deal, there is a secret runway right next to an oil well.
A satellite image taken on 4th May 2017 shows the secret runway. Image courtesy of Planet Labs.
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