A gunman burst into a casino in the Philippines on Friday, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, and at least 36 people were killed, most suffocating in thick smoke, in what officials believe was a botched robbery.
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.
“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella told a media conference.
“Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”
For graphic on attack on casino resort in Philippine capital click: tmsnrt.rs/2rLiFpP
Police said the gunman killed himself soon after the attack, and they later announced they were looking for a second “person of interest” who was believed to be a Philippine national.
Most of the dead suffocated in the chaos as guests and staff tried to flee choking smoke at the complex after the attack began shortly after midnight (1600 GMT).
Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police office, said those that died were in the casino’s main gaming area.
“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella told a news conference. “Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”
Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police office, said those who died were in the casino’s main gaming area.
“What caused their deaths is the thick smoke,” he told reporters. “The room was carpeted and of course the tables, highly combustible.”
A Resorts World official said the dead included 22 guests.
At dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the smouldering complex, which is close to Manila’s airport and an air force base, police said.
“He burned himself inside the hotel room 510,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a news conference. “He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline.”
Resorts World Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly said casino guards had shot and wounded the gunman – armed with what authorities described as a “baby armalite” – during the attack.
“Severe loss of blood from the gunshot wound significantly slowed down the assailant and resulted to his holing up in the room where he took his own life,” Reilly said.
Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what was at first was believed to have been a militant attack.
Survivor Magdalena Ramos, who was a guest at the hotel, said people began shouting “ISIS! ISIS!” when the gunfire began. The 57-year-old said she hid in a kitchen and then fled when the smoke became too thick.
But police quickly said they did not believe the attacker had any militant connections.
“We cannot attribute this to terrorism,” national police chief dela Rosa told DZMM radio.
“We are looking into a robbery angle because he did not hurt any people and went straight to the casino chips storage room. He parked at the second floor and barged into the casino, shooting large TV screens and poured gasoline on a table setting it on fire,” he said.
Earlier reports said the gunman may have been white, but police later said he appeared to be Filipino, although they were still establishing his nationality.
Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital’s police office, said 113 million pesos ($2.27 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.
Source – Reuters