Dozens of people were injured after gunfire erupted at a mall, casino and hotel complex near Manila’s international airport in the Philippine capital early Friday morning, but officials stressed there was no concrete evidence yet the attack was terrorism.
Philippine police chief Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa said at a press briefing one gunman is believed to be behind the attack at Resorts World Manila, and is still at large more than two hours after the incident began.
Dela Rosa told reporters at the scene that the gunman stole gambling chips, shot an LED monitor and set ablaze gambling tables by pouring gasoline on them, but the assailant did not fire at people he met.
It was not immediately clear if anyone was killed in the attack or even if it had concluded, or how the gunman smuggled enough gasoline into the crowded casino to cause explosions and what prompted Dela Rosa to rule out terrorism so quickly.
At least 25 people were injured, the Philippine Red Cross told The Manila Times. Fernando Atienza, team leader of the emergency response unit of the PRC, told the Manila Times some of the victims suffered serious injuries because they jumped from the second floor of the hotel.
Gunfire and a fire were reported at the resort complex in Pasay City sometime after midnight Friday local time. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority reported that there is a “fire alert” at the Resorts World Manila about 12:30 a.m. local time.
“Resorts World Manila is currently on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men,” the resort wrote on Twitter.
Witnesses reported seeing injured people, including a SWAT officer who rushed to the scene and was reportedly fired upon. The AP was working to confirm those reports.
The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism monitor, said an Islamic State-linked Filipino operative who provides daily updates on the ongoing clashes in Marawi in the southern part of the country claimed that “lone wolf soldiers” of the Islamic State group are responsible for the attack at Resorts World Manila.
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.”
The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs confirmed there were reports of explosions and gunfire at the resort and urged people to avoid the area. There is no word yet on whether any Americans were in the area at the time of the attack. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Twitter that President Trump “was aware of the situation in Manila and being provided updates by his national security team.”
While during an address at the White House Rose Garden to announce he withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accord, Trump said the White House is “closing monitoring the situation.”
“It is really very sad what is going on throughout the world with terror,” Trump said. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with everyone involved.”
Videos posted on social media showed hotel guests running out of the resorts with sounds of apparent gunfire in the background. Smoke began billowing from the upper floor of the building and some reported seeing masked men guns inside the building.
A witness at the resort told ABS-CBN News that he saw the attacker setting casino tables on fire. He added that hotel guests, some foreigners, headed toward the emergency exits while others ran to the building’s basement.
Resorts World Manila is touted as a popular tourist destination that includes a shopping center, casino and hotels. It’s located near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The Philippines have been grappling with unrest in the Mindanao region, where President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law through mid-July in an attempt to crush the insurrection. Militants linked to the Islamic State group laid siege to Marawi to take control of the city.
Duterte sent in the military, with 3,000 soldiers and 30 warplanes involved in the fight to clear the city of ISIS militants, among them foreign fighters from Yemen and Chechnya.
On May 23, the Philippine military launched a botched raid to capture the self-proclaimed head of ISIS in the Philippines, Isnilon Hapilon. Around 500 ISIS fighters had stockpiled weapons in Marawi.
Around 90 percent of the city has been cleared of ISIS militants in recent days, but there have been setbacks including friendly fire bombing that killed Philippine soldiers in recent days.
In recent years, small militant groups in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have begun unifying under the banner of the Islamic State group. Jose Calida, the top Philippine prosecutor, said last week that the violence on the large southern island of Mindanao “is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens.”
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Alex Diaz, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.