At least 37 people have been killed after a ‘white, English-speaking’ gunman attacked a casino in Manila, stole $2.3million worth of betting chips and set fire to tables before he ‘burned himself to death’.
It is understood many of the victims were women who suffocated due to smoke inhalation as crowds battled to get to the exits.
Witnesses said the gunman, who had an assault rifle, entered the Resorts World Manila casino in Pasay City, Philippines, shortly after midnight before opening fire on betting terminals and televisions.
It sparked mass panic and the man was then seen pouring fuel over tables and setting them ablaze while gamblers were fleeing for their lives.
Explosions were also heard coming from the tourist hotpot and bloodied victims were seen being stretchered out of the building.
A Resorts World Manila official said the dead, who all died from smoke inhalation, included 13 employees and 22 guests.
Before the gunmen had been killed and police had confirmed any motive, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility and US President Donald Trump also branded it a ‘terrorist attack’. It was later revealed that the incident was likely a robbery gone wrong.
National police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said a ‘foreign looking, Caucasian gunman’ had stormed the second floor of one of the complex’s four hotels and fired an automatic rifle at TV monitors, before setting gaming tables alight.
He stuffed a backpack with casino chips before he fled but was found dead in an adjacent hotel early Friday of an apparent suicide.
The man did not shoot anyone but 53 people were reported injured in the stampede and from the smoke, while one security guard accidentally shot himself in a panic, Dela Rosa said.
The gunman disappeared into the chaos of smoke and running people, leading to a manhunt throughout the casino, hotel and shopping complex that ended just after dawn.
Dela Rosa initially said police killed the assailant who was hiding in a hotel room, but later told reporters the man committed suicide.
Some seven hours after the attack began police confirmed the gunman had killed himself, wrapping his body in a thick blanket on a bed in a hotel room and dousing himself in gasoline.
Philippine authorities swept through the burnt casino after the siege, reportedly finding at least 37 bodies and taking 54 people to hospital. Most of the victims died as a result of smoke inhalation during the chaos.
The bodies were found in the smoky gambling room by firefighters and all died from suffocation and smoke inhalation, Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said. None of the bodies had gunshot wounds.