Thirty-six people have been killed after a gunman stormed a hotel and entertainment complex in the Philippine capital, Manila, late on Thursday evening, sending hundreds of tourists fleeing in terror.
The victims, who were discovered on Friday morning, did not appear to have been shot, but were suffocated in the chaos as guests and staff tried flee the choking smoke from a fire, said Bureau of Fire Protection official Tomas Apolinario. A further 54 were injured, some seriously.
The lone gunman, described as a Caucasian with a moustache, was among the dead, having committed suicide by setting himself on fire in one of the hotel guest rooms, the Philippines police said on Friday. His body was found burned beyond recognition, next to a machine gun.
The incident unfolded when an armed suspect forced his way into the Resorts World Manila casino, shooting at gambling machines and setting tables alight with gasoline.
A Filipino operative for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) terror group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The country is on edge amid the ongoing siege of the southern city of Marawi which has now entered its eleventh day with militants affiliated with Isil waging fierce battles with the military. The unrest has sparked fears that terrorists may strike elsewhere to divert government troops.
But the police quickly denied the incident was terror-related, claiming that it was a robbery during which the gunman stole gambling chips worth $2.3 million, shot an LED monitor and set gambling tables ablaze.
The assailant did not fire directly at people, said national police chief, General Ronald Dela Rosa.
“If this is Isis, all the people gambling inside should have been shot or already been bombed. He didn’t hurt anyone. Those who were injured got their injuries when they jumped from the windows,” he said.
As the attack unfolded, many people were injured as panicked guests rushed to get out of the building, with reports of some people jumping from second floor windows.
Witnesses were quick to upload footage of wounded people being led out to ambulances, sharing pictures of clouds of smoke billowing out of the hotel windows. One witness said that gunfire was heard on the second floor.
“I could smell some kind of smoke that came from an explosive device,” one casino customer, Tikos Low, told CNN.
Police rushed to the complex in the early hours of the morning. Fire trucks and a SWAT team were also at the hotel, which is across the road from one of the main terminals of the Philippines’ international airport. All terminals were put on lockdown.
The Foreign Office changed its travel advice for Britons in the Philippines following the attack. It advised travellers to avoid the area and follow the advice of local authorities.
US President Donald Trump said Washington was closely monitoring events, initially describing the attack as terrorism.
‘Revenge for Marawi’
Reports have surfaced that a Philippine #ISIS operative from Marawi says “lone wolf soldiers of Khilafah” are behind the attack.
Isil claimed responsibility
Isil have now claimed responsibility.
Local media has reported that a man dressed in black began fire in Resorts World Manila.
Hotel on lockdown, working with police
Resorts World Manila has released the following statement:
“Resorts World Manila is currently on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men. The Company is working closely with the Philippine National Police to ensure that all guests and employees are safe. We ask for your prayers during these difficult times.”
Men entered resort, reports say
Local journalist James Agustin of DZBB Super Radyo has uploaded a video, with a man reported to be saying that men came into Resorts World Manila, after which gunshots were heard on the second floor. He also said there was smoke.
— James Agustin (@_jamesJA) June 1, 2017
Gunfire and explosions reported
Gunfire and explosions have been heard outside the Resorts World hotel in Manila, CNN Philippines reported on its Twitter feed. It said police, fire trucks and a SWAT team were in the area.
Emergency services summoned
Fire engines and ambulances have been called to the scene of a reported attack at the hotel. Witnesses have said that paramedics are attending to the wounded, and that people jumped out of the building in order to flee.
The story is breaking on Twitter
People are fleeing from the Resorts World Manila hotel. The caption reads: “Some people wounded after rushing out of Resorts World Manila in Pasay. We heard two more gunshots.”