Last night, after a lone gunman burst in the biggest hotel-casino in the Philippines with an automatic rifle and set fire to the building, police found 36 bodies, according to Oscar Albayakde, a police spokesman. The victims died of smoke inhalation in the casino area.
According to the Director-General of the Philippine National Police, Ronald dela Rosa, the gunman had not aimed his weapon at people
He said that robbery could have been his motive as his bag, which was recovered by police, was filled with casino chips.
He was seen in CCTV footage breaking into the casino stockroom and stealing chips.
"Don’t panic, this is not a cause for alarm. We cannot attribute this to terrorism. 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," Ronald dela Rosa told DZMM Radio, with another police official, Tomas Apolonio Jr., telling the New York Times that the gunman shot a television set and set fire to a table but did not shoot any people, indicating his intent was not to kill anyone.
"He could have inflicted maximum casualties but he did not," Abayalde said.
At the entrance of Resorts World Manila, when a guard tried to question the gunman, he reportedly ignored the guard, the Associated Press reported the DG of the National Police as saying
He did not hurt the guard but went straight to the gambling area
The AP reported citing National police chief Dela Rosa saying that the gunman stole gambling chips, shot TV screens and set gambling tables ablaze by pouring gasoline on them. The room's carpet and the tables were combustible, Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said, and all the bodies were found in the smoky gambling room.
However, while it is not clear how the gunman smuggled gasoline and an assault rifle into the crowded casino, the assailant did not fire at people he encountered.
After he started the fire, the gunman set himself alight
The lone gunman, who has not yet been identified, died after setting himself alight as armed officers searched the building, police said. He killed himself after firing at officers.
"He burned himself inside the hotel room 510," dela Rosa told a media conference.
"He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline," the DG of the National Police told the Associated Press.
Of the people who died, 13 were employees of the hotel-casino and 22 were guests. More than 70 people were injured in the stampede.
The only gunshot wound was a guard at the complex, who accidentally shot himself when the suspect entered the room, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s foreign ministry said one South Korean died of an apparent heart attack after being evacuated from the casino.
While it was speculated by local media that the gunman could have been a foreigner on the basis that he spoke English well, and he appeared to resemble a Caucasian, Superintendent Apolinario told the BBC the police had not confirmed the gunman's nationality
Over the last week, the far south of the Philippines has seen militants allied to the Islamic State to engage in street battles, police say the gunman was acting alone and was not connected to any Islamist group anywhere.
He appeared to be "mentally disturbed", police said, with Resorts World Manila calling the casino shooting a "cowardly act of a deranged mind".
Philippines' police officers stand in front of the Resorts World Manila hours after the attack which has left as many as 36 people dead