MANILA: A gunman killed himself after bursting into a Manila casino, firing shots and setting gaming tables alight, Philippine police said, sowing panic in a country on high alert after martial law was declared in the south.
Police said earlier the man’s motive was likely robbery and that the incident was not terror-related, Reuters reported Friday.
National police chief Ronald dela 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 (1600 GMT), and may have been trying to steal casino chips.
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 it appeared the suspect had killed himself after firing at officers searching the still-smoking building.
“Our assessment is he burned himself. He committed suicide,” Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police office, said in a radio interview.
Officials said at least 30 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what at first had been feared as a militant attack.
“Don’t panic, this is not a cause for alarm. We cannot attribute this to terrorism,” national police chief 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.
A Reuters witness saw armed police entering a hotel near the complex. Videos posted earlier on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs were heard.
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.
Dozens of police trucks and a handful of huge Special Action Force vans and armoured personnel carriers lined side streets near the hotel, casino and shopping mall complex as the drama unfolded.
Police chief dela Rosa said it was possible the Islamic State militant group would claim responsibility for the incident for propaganda purposes.
Duterte has said he fears Islamic State’s “terrible ideology” will spread on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people, and has warned it could become a haven for supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.