Trump Calls Philippines Casino Fire a 'Terrorist Attack,' Causing Laughter Among Officials

U.S. President Donald Trump has described an arson attack in the Philippines’ capital, Manila, as a “terrorist attack” even though Philippine authorities have said nothing to this effect.

Thirty-six people died of smoke inhalation and suffocation, and 50 were injured in one of the worst single attacks in the Philippines’ recent history.

Philippine officials have said the reason for the attack is still unknown, but it was most likely to be a botched robbery. Eyewitnesses described a “tall, foreign white man” who headed straight for the chip room at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, a southwestern suburb of the the capital.

Speaking at the White House Rose Garden to discuss the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said: "I would like to begin by addressing the terrorist attack in Manila. It is really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror. Our thoughts and our prayers are with all of those affected.”

A U.S. intelligence official reportedly said that “a laugh went up” in the Situation Room after Trump spoke. He added that Trump was “freelancing.”

U.S. Intelligence agencies also reportedly said it was too soon to draw conclusions over the motive behind the attack at the time Trump spoke.

The Philippines’ National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa spoke to reporters after Trump’s remarks and said there was no evidence of terrorism. The suspect fled the scene of the attack after robbing the casino, setting tables on fire as he went, dela Rosa added. He later burned himself to death in a hotel room.

The suspect was carrying a long firearm, most likely a variant of the M16 carbine, according to National Capital Region Police Chief Oscar Albayalde.

The Philippines’ presidential palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella has urged the country’s citizens to unite and be careful about spreading fake news about the attack, Philippine newspaper Daily Inquirer reports. “ We’d like to enjoin especially the netizens to please exercise responsibility… I believe this is a particularly historic moment for all of us to be able to come together, that in spite of all the differences, that we all work towards the preservation of peace and unity in the country.”

Abella made the comments after social media claims surfaced that the Islamic State militant group was responsible for the attack, the Inquirer reports.