Thirty-six people died of suffocation on Friday after a lone gunman set a fire in a hotel and casino complex in the Philippine capital during a pre-dawn attack that many had feared was perpetrated by terrorists, police said.
Fifty-four people were also hurt while fleeing from the Resorts World Manila as the suspect, believed to be a foreigner, opened fire with an M4 rifle and burned gaming tables and carpets.
The wounded included one security guard who shot herself in panic, police said.
The dead were found scattered in the casino area on the second and third floors of the Resorts World Manila, according to Director Osar Albayalde, chief of police in the capital region.
“The 36 bodies were retrieved all over the gaming area, not in hotel rooms,” Albayalde told a press conference. “Their deaths were caused by suffocation from the thick fumes when the suspect burned the gaming tables and the carpets.”
None of the victims had gunshot wounds, he said.
The suspect killed himself inside one of the hotel rooms, more than seven hours after storming the complex that was just across from an airport terminal and near an air force base.
“He had a gunshot wound to the head and he was really burned,” Albayalde said. “What we think happened is he poured gas on his body, covered himself with blanket and he ignited himself. Then he shot himself before he was burned totally.”
Authorities said the attack was not terrorism-related and had no connection to a week-long battle between government troops and militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist movement in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila.
“We can say that this is not an act of terror,” said director general Ronald Dela Rosa, the national police chief. “There is no element of violence and intimidation that leads to terrorism. If he had planned to kill himself, if he’s a terrorist, instead of burning himself, why not strap a bomb [on himself]?”
The suspect stole 113 million pesos (2.26 million dollars) worth of chips, which he placed in a backpack that he later left in a bathroom in the hotel, Dela Rosa said.
The attack caused panic in the capital after the SITE Intelligence Group quoted a Daesh "Islamic State" operative as saying that "lone wolf soldiers of Khilafah (the Caliphate)" were responsible for the attack at the complex just across from Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and near an air force base.
The operative has been providing daily updates on ongoing fighting between government troops and militants who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, SITE added.
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