A gunman who robbed a casino at a Manila resort, causing a panicked stampede by customers fearing a terrorist attack, has been killed, CNN Philippines reported, citing police officials.
Philippines National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said the man forced his way into a Resorts World Manila casino and created chaos by setting several gambling tables on fire and shooting gambling machines and video screens, though he didn’t appear to be firing at people, CNN Philippines reported.
The man ransacked a room and stole gaming chips worth 1 million pesos each, Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said the man appeared to be robbing the casino, but he could not completely rule out terrorism as a motive.
“It’s too early to tell, but so far as we are concerned there was no ISIS,” he said. “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.”
Dela Rosa said the suspect appeared to be Caucasian and had a mustache.
Resorts Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly told reporters about 30 people were hurt, mostly by being bumped while rushing out of the building, and nobody was killed, CNN Philippines reported.
Hundreds of guests and employees rushed out of the resort hotel after the masked gunman on the second floor began shooting a gun, hotel employees fleeing the scene told CNN Philippines.
The resort was put on lockdown and heavily armed SWAT officers wearing bulletproof vests and body armor descended on the scene, Camille Abadicio of CNN Philippines said.
Video captured people fleeing, the sound of gunshots and smoke coming from the upper floors of buildings.
Jay Dones, a witness on the scene, said the incident started around midnight Thursday (noon ET) and that some employees said gunman fired shots in the air.
Dones said employees told him they saw two suspects wearing black and carrying long firearms.
“One of them was carrying a bottle,” Dones said. “One of the employees told me that the suspect began pouring the contents of the bottle on one of the tables and lit it on fire.”
Tikos Low said he was in the resort’s casino, along with a few hundred other people, when the attack began. Low said he heard what sounded like an explosion.
“I could smell some kind of smoke that came from an explosive device,” he said.
Airport locked down
All terminals at Ninoy Aquino International Airport were placed on lockdown because of the attack, according to Robert Echano with airport operations. The airport is about a mile away from the resort.
Later the airport returned to normal operations but was on heightened alert, an airport official said.
In Quezon City, one of the municipalities in metro Manila, Police District Director Guillermo Eleazar ordered all 12 police stations in the city to set up checkpoints and to maximize police visibility. All mobile patrol units and tactical motorized units of QCPD have been deployed to secure the city.
Eleazar also called on the public to remain calm and to refrain from spreading unverified information and to be vigilant at all times.
Resort has casino
Resorts World Manila, also known as RWM, is a resort complex in Newport City, a residential and commercial center in metropolitan Manila.
The sprawling complex has an array of hotels, restaurants and bars. Tourists flock to the complex for its casino, cinema and stores, which include several Western retailers such as Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Kate Spade.
The complex, which is described on RWM’s website as “the first and largest integrated resort in the Philippines,” is across from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Conflict in the south
The Philippines has been grappling with incidents of terrorism, especially on the southern island of Mindanao. There, in the city of Marawi, government forces have been battling ISIS-linked militants for control of the city.
The battle for Marawi, a largely Muslim city, has displaced at least 70,000 residents and left 140 people dead. The terrorist siege began last week, just as Muslims worldwide started to mark the holy month of Ramadan.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law over the island of Mindanao in light of the crisis. Duterte also suggested he might extend martial law through year’s end or impose it nationwide, alarming critics.
Trump called it terror
Shortly after the incident began, the US State Department warned American citizens to avoid the area and to let family and friends know they were safe.
In Washington, President Trump seemed to think terrorists were involved in the resort incident.
He opened his White House announcement about leaving the Paris climate accord by saying “our thoughts and our prayers” are with those affected by the “terrorist attack in Manilla.”
Not long after, officials in the Philippines announced it wasn’t terrorism.
Trump was briefed by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on the Philippines incident before he went into the Rose Garden, a White House official said Thursday.
The official declined to comment on whether the incident was called a terrorist attack in the briefing.