By Peter Blaza and Clare Baldwin
MANILA A gunman killed himself after bursting into a Manila casino, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, Philippine police said, sowing panic in a country on high alert after martial law was declared in the south.Police said earlier the man's motive was likely robbery and that the incident was not terror-related.National police chief Ronald dela Rosa told DZMM radio the lone gunman had not aimed his assault rifle at people at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex during the hours-long drama that began shortly after midnight (1600 GMT), and may have been trying to steal casino chips. Around dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the complex, which is close to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and an air force base.Police said it appeared the suspect had killed himself after firing at officers searching the still-smoking building."Our assessment is he burned himself. He committed suicide," Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital's police office, said in a radio interview. Officials said at least 30 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what at first had been feared as a militant attack."Don't panic, this is not a cause for alarm. We cannot attribute this to terrorism," national police chief dela Rosa said."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.
Police said the gunman was tall with a pale complexion and spoke English.A Reuters witness saw armed police entering a hotel near the complex. Videos posted earlier on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs were heard.Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, close to Resorts World, said 13 people were being treated, but more were on the way.Most of the patients were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and some had injuries such as fractures, she said, adding that none had gunshot wounds. Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital's police office, said 113 million Philippine pesos ($2.27 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.
The Philippines has been on heightened alert amid a crisis in the south of the country, where troops have been battling Islamist rebels since May 23. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao last week.U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was closely monitoring events unfolding in Manila. The U.S. embassy in Manila told Americans there to exercise caution and to review their personal security.
Dozens of police trucks and a handful of huge Special Action Force vans and armoured personnel carriers lined side streets near the hotel, casino and shopping mall complex as the drama unfolded.Gil Yonco, 54, stood weeping in the street at around 5 a.m. His daughter had been on the second floor inside Resorts World and called her father for help because she was being suffocated by smoke.He tried calling back but there was no answer. "I am very worried as a parent, I need to find her," he said.A casino worker from the third floor of the complex, named Julio, told DZMM radio he heard many gunshots and saw people running up the stairs from the second floor.Ronald Romualdo, a maintenance worker at Resorts World, told the station he saw a woman fall from an upper floor while trying to escape. "Several people were injured," he said.Police chief dela Rosa said it was possible the Islamic State militant group would claim responsibility for the incident for propaganda purposes.President Rodrigo Duterte has said he fears Islamic State's "terrible ideology" will spread on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people, and has warned it could become a haven for supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria. ($1 = 49.6870 Philippine pesos) (Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato, Enrico Dela Cruz and Martin Petty; Writing by Martin Petty, Alex Richardson and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt, Andrew Heavens and Paul Tait)
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Published Date: Jun 02, 2017 05:45 am | Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 05:45 am