At least three dozen people died, most from suffocating in thick toxic smoke, after a gunman burst into a hotel and casino complex in Manila, fired an assault rifle, and set tables ablaze in what police say was a robbery gone awry, but which terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for.
Among the 37 who died was the attacker, who was found inside a room of the hotel section of Resorts World Manila severely burned and with a gunshot wound in the head.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) yesterday claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group's Amaq news agency. Investigators theorised that the lone gunman might have doused himself with petrol, hid underneath a blanket, set himself on fire, and then quickly shot himself in the head.
Police said it was not a terrorist attack because the gunman did not threaten or shoot anyone.
"This is not an act of terror. There is no element of violence, threat or intimidation that leads to terrorism," police chief Ronald Dela Rosa told reporters.
Closed-circuit television footage showed the man alighting from a car at the second level of a parking area and making his way to the casino, carrying an M4 assault rifle, lugging a backpack and with a bonnet on his head.
$3.2m Value of chips the attacker stuffed into his backpack before trying to escape
A female guard who saw him approaching panicked and ran, triggering a stampede. The man then fired into the air and at a TV set, poured petrol on tables, and set them on fire. He then made his way to a room where he knew casino chips were being stored, shot at the door, and began looting the place.
He stuffed a backpack he was carrying with 113 million pesos (S$3.2 million) worth of chips, and tried to escape via the adjacent hotel.
He was shot in the leg when he ran into hotel security. He fled towards the fifth floor of the hotel, and barricaded himself inside Room 510. Hours after the attack, investigators had yet to identify the gunman.
Senior police officials had described him as "Caucasian", but his nationality had yet to be determined.
"He looks Caucasian, talks in English. He's big, and he's white. So the assumption, he speaks English, he is probably a foreigner," Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, police chief in metropolitan Manila, said at a news briefing.
The Rappler online news site said the man had been a "long-time guest" at the hotel, and had probably already lost millions from gambling at the casino.
Other sources told local media that he could have been a "security consultant", as the weapon he used, an M4 assault rifle, could be procured only by the military, police or civilian security contractors.
A second "person of interest" who was at the casino at the time was cooperating with the investigation, police said.
Arson investigators said most of those who died failed to get out of the casino in time because they chose to hide instead of run away.
Many of them were found at the gaming area. Others were at a hallway and inside toilets.
"What caused their deaths is the thick smoke. The room was carpeted, and of course the tables, highly combustible," Mr Albayalde told reporters.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said four Taiwanese were among those killed, and a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said one South Korean had died, apparently after a heart attack.
Mr Albayalde said the suspect was "apparently mentally disturbed".
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