At least 34 dead in botched robbery by Resorts World Manila gunman

An injured hotel guest is seen outside of a hotel after a shooting incident inside Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines June 2, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

At least 34 people are dead after a gunman burst into a Manila casino, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, Philippine media reported on Friday, in what officials said was a botched robbery attempt.

Police said the unidentified gunman had killed himself after firing at armed officers searching the still-smoking Resorts World Manila entertainment complex hours after the drama that began shortly after midnight (1600 GMT).

Many of the dead suffocated in the chaos as guests and staff tried to flee choking smoke at the complex, according to a report by ANC News channel, quoting Bureau of Fire Protection sources.

Resort owner Travellers International Hotel Group Inc said authorities were still seeking details.

"We have been informed of several casualties, the number and identities of whom have yet to be determined," it said in a statement. Its shares were down 7 per cent.

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.

"He burned himself inside the hotel room 510," national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a media conference.

"He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline."

The bodies of two of the victims had been taken to the Veronica funeral parlour, staff member Leni Domingo told Reuters.

Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what at first had been feared as a militant attack.

Dela Rosa told DZMM radio the lone gunman had not aimed his assault rifle at people and may have been trying to steal casino chips.

Gunman fired shots inside a casino, killed himself

  • "The lone gunman is already neutralised. He is dead. He burned himself inside the hotel room," police chief Ronald Dela Rosa told reporters outside.
  • "He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a thick blanket, apparently poured petrol on the blanket and burned himself."
  • Mr De la Rosa made the comments about an hour after claiming in a television interview that police had shot the gunman dead.
  • Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what at first had been feared as a militant attack.
  • Ms Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and some had injuries such as fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.
  • Gunshots rang out at an upscale hotel and casino complex in Manila early on Friday (June 2) morning in what was initially suspected as a terrorist attack, but later dismissed by security officials as an attempted robbery.
  • Thousands flooded out of Resorts World Manila, near the country's main airport and an air force base, just after midnight, after they heard a staccato of gunfire, and saw a fire broke out at the second floor of the casino.
  • Witnesses interviewed on radio said they saw armed men with blackened faces firing guns and burning a table.
  • But Director-General Ronald de la Rosa later told reporters police were looking for just one gunman who likely had intended to rob the casino.
  • He said CCTV footage showed the suspect, whom he described as tall and "caucasian-looking", park his vehicle at the second floor of the parking area. He then made his way to the casino, carrying an M4 assault rifle, lugging a backpack and with a bonnet on his head.
  • The man afterwards fired at a TV, poured gasoline on a table, lit it up, and then fired at the door leading to a storage area for casino chips. He then loaded his backpack with chips, mostly with a value of 1 million pesos (S$27,900) each, and then attempted to escape.
  • Mr De la 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.
  • Ms Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital's police office, said 113 million Philippine pesos (S$3 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.
  • "Please help pray for the injured and the loss of lives due to suffocation," she said in a message to reporters.
  • "We can't establish the motive as in line with terrorism. He may have just lost his mind. He may be mad at the casino. He may've lost a lot of money," said Mr De la Rosa.
  • He added: "It's too early to tell, but as far as we are concerned there's no indication that this is the work of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). If it was, he would have gunned down people who were gambling, or set off a bomb. But he did not hurt anyone. Those reported hurt were due to smoke inhalation, and injuries from the stampede."
  • He said in one CCTV clip, the man was seen removing his bonnet and was revealed to be "caucasian-looking".
  • Unverified posts on the social media app Telegram said "lone wolf soldiers of the Khilafah attack the heart of the Kufar in Manila".
  • The Site Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist networks, was then quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying it was an ISIS attack.
  • Mr De la Rosa said these claims were "nothing more than propaganda".
  • Regardless, the incident stoked fears of a terrorist attack, amid days-long clashes between government troops and Muslim militants in a key southern city.
  • Mr Julio Silva, 62, a casino player, said in a radio interview he hid inside a toilet for 30 minutes after he heard gunshots.
  • He said "there was smoke all around" and it was "very dark" when he stepped out of the toilet. A rescue team later found him.

"Don't panic, this is not a cause for alarm. We cannot attribute this to terrorism," 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.

GUNSHOTS, PANIC

Videos posted earlier on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs were heard.

"Even the security personnel panicked. Maybe because of the heavy firearm, they can't put up a fight so they prioritized life and safety," Jeff Santos, a high roller at Resorts World Manila, told a Philippine radio station.

"Definitely us patrons we did not expect that, everyone ran away."

Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and some had injuries such as fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.

Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital's police office, said 113 million Philippine pesos (S$3.14 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.

"Please help pray for the injured and the loss of lives due to suffocation," she said in a message to reporters.

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 and has warned it could become a haven for supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.

Dela Rosa said there had been no specific, credible terror threat in Manila so far.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump said Washington was closely monitoring what he described as a "terrorist" attack unfolding in Manila.

The US 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 armored 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 named Julio from the third floor of the complex 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.

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