36 killed by smoke after gunman starts fire in Manila casino robbery

36 killed by smoke after gunman starts fire in Manila casino robbery
Relatives of victims grieve as they receive news of their loved ones. Picture: AP Photo/Aaron Favila

A gunman has stormed into a crowded Philippines casino and used petrol to set gambling tables on fire, creating clouds of smoke that killed at least 36 people, police said.

The gunman, who has not yet been identified, targeted the casino at Resorts World Manila, a complex of hotels, restaurants, stores and a sprawling multi-floor gambling area in the capital.

He fled with more than $2m in stolen casino chips, then forced his way into a room in an adjoining hotel and killed himself.

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

An Islamic State-linked Filipino said on social media that "lone wolf soldiers" from the group were behind the attack, but police noted the man did not shoot anyone he encountered.

The only gunshot wound was a guard at the complex who accidentally shot himself, authorities said.

"He would have shot all the people gambling" if his goal was terrorism, said national police chief Ronald dela Rosa. None of the bodies had gunshots, authorities added.

Police saw no connection to nearly two weeks of fighting with Muslim militants aligned with IS in the southern city of Marawi.

Mr dela Rosa said security video showed the gunman ignoring a guard who tried to question him at the complex's entrance, then going straight to the casino.

He stuffed a backpack with gambling chips, fired his assault rifle at TV screens and set tables on fire by pouring petrol on to them from a 2-litre bottle, Mr dela Rosa said.

It was not clear how he smuggled the petrol and rifle into the crowded casino.

The gunman, described by Mr dela Rosa as white, with a moustache, about 6ft and English speaking, fled the gambling area and barged into a room on the fifth floor of Maxims Hotel, which is part of the Resorts complex.

He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a blanket, doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire, Mr dela Rosa said. He carried no identity documents, police added.

The bag of stolen gambling chips was found in a toilet.

The attack sent hundreds of people fleeing through the complex and into the night. A South Korean died of a possible heart attack suffered during the evacuation, the Foreign Ministry said.

More than 70 people suffered mostly minor injuries in the stampede to escape.

- AP

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