Asia

Manila casino attacker's identity being sought by Philippine police

Philippine police are investigating the identity of a gunman who set several casino tables on fire at Manila resort. The attack left at least 35 people dead.

Philippine police released surveillance images of the unidentified gunman who killed himself after fleeing the Resorts World Manila complex with more than $2 million in stolen casino chips.

They described the attacker was a tall, English-speaking white man with a mustache. Police said they know he carried an assault rifle and gasoline into the casino to start the fire. It is not clear how he smuggled these items into the crowded casino. Authorities said they were examining his car, which he left in a complex parking garage.

The national police said the gunman had escaped to an adjoining hotel, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. The stolen chips were found in the toilet.

"Either he lost in the casino and wanted to recoup his losses or he went totally nuts," Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said.

Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said the bodies were found in smoky rooms by firefighters and all died from suffocation and smoke inhalation. None of the bodies had gunshot wounds.

The attack sent hundreds of people fleeing into the night outside the Resorts World Manila complex and produced a claim of terrorism that police stressed had no evidence to support it. The violence unfolded as government forces were engaged in a second week of fighting against Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group in the southern city of Marawi.

An additional 70 people or more suffered mostly minor injuries in the stampede to escape. The only gunshot wound was a guard at the complex, who accidentally shot himself when the suspect entered the room, authorities said.

"He would have shot all the people gambling there" if it had been terrorism, Philippines national police chief Ronald dela Rosa said. "But he did not hurt anyone."

Dela Rosa said security footage showed the gunman ignoring a guard who tried to question him at the entrance to the complex. He did not hurt the guard but went straight to the gambling area, dela Rosa said.

PRIEST KIDNAPPED BY ISIS IN PHILIPPINES, ISSUES VIDEO PLEADING FOR HIS LIFE AND HUNDREDS OF OTHERS

Ronald Romualdo, a maintenance worker at Resorts World, said he and his colleagues heard gunshots and saw people smashing the windows on the second floor and third floor to escape.

"We took out a ladder to save them. We were able to save many of them," he said. "But one woman I was trying to save fell from the second floor. ... I could not carry her." He said the woman was not moving afterward, but he didn't know what happened to her.

About 90 minutes after the attack began, Resorts World Manila said on its Facebook page that it was on lockdown following reports of gunfire and it was working to ensure the safety of guests and workers.

As news of the attack had spread, President Donald Trump offered the thoughts and prayers of the American people to the Philippines.

"It is really very sad as to what's going on throughout the world with terror," he said from the White House Rose Garden. Trump said he was "closely monitoring the situation" and would continue to provide updates.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, however, did not mention the attack in a speech he gave to soldiers Friday in the country's south.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism monitor, said an ISIS-linked Filipino operative who provides daily updates on the ongoing clashes in Marawi claimed "lone wolf soldiers" of ISIS were responsible for the attack.

THIS WEEK IN PHOTOS

An English message by the operative was distributed across several pro-ISIS Telegram chat groups, SITE said. According to SITE, he wrote: "The lone wolf soldiers of Khilafah attack the heart of Kufar the city of Manila in Resort World."

"Khilafah" refers to the caliphate that ISIS said it created in Iraq and Syria. "Kufar" is a derogatory term for a non-Muslim.

The unrest in Marawi had sparked fears that militants might attack elsewhere to divert the focus of thousands of troops trying to quell the siege. But dela Rosa said "We cannot attribute this to terrorism without concrete evidence."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Sky News.