MANILA // A gunman was on the loose at a casino complex in the Philippine capital on Friday after firing an assault rifle in a gambling room, but nobody had been reported shot or taken hostage, the national police chief said.
The incident was quickly claimed by ISIL, which said “lone wolf soldiers” from its group carried out the attack, according to the Site Intelligence Group that monitors terrorist organisations.
People ran screaming out of Resorts World Manila, which is across the road from one of the main terminals of the country’s international airport, after the man fired what police chief Ronald dela Rosa said was an M4 assault rifle.
“There hasn’t been anyone shot ... there are only injuries from people who tried to escape in a stampede or from smoke,” Mr dela Rosa said on DZMM radio.
The police chief said he could not say if it was terrorist attack, but emphasised the gunman did not shoot anyone and that there had been no reports of hostages being taken.
But the gunmen had not been found, he said at 4.30am on Friday local time, more than four hours after the shooting occurred.
Mr dela Rosa said the man, who appeared to be acting alone, walked into one of the gambling rooms and fired the rifle at a large television screen before pouring gasoline onto a gambling table and setting it alight.
He said the man then fired again at a stockroom containing gambling chips and filled a backpack with them.
The man left the room and went upstairs to a hotel section of the complex, according to Mr dela Rosa.
“We have cleared the rooms [on the floor of the hotel the gunman was last seen] but we don’t see where he is,” he said.
The police chief added: “We cannot attribute this to terrorism.”
He said it may have just have been an attempted robbery, pointing out the gunman tried to steal the gambling chips.
People inside the casino recounted feelings of terror when the shooting occurred.
“I was about to return to the second floor from my break when I saw people running. Some hotel guests said someone yelled ‘ISIS’,” Maricel Navaro, an employee of Resorts World, told DZMM radio.
“Guests were screaming. We went to the basement locker room and hid there. People were screaming, guests and employees were in panic.”
“When we smelled smoke, we decided to go for the exit in the car park. That’s where we got out. Before we exited, we heard two gunshots and there was thick smoke on the ground floor.”
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law last week across the southern Philippine region of Mindanao to crush what he said was a rising threat of ISIL there.
He declared martial law shortly after ISIL-linked militants went on a rampage through the southern city of Marawi, which is about 800 kilometres south of Manila.
Security forces are still battling the militants in Marawi, and the clashes there have left at least 171 people dead.
Mr Duterte said last week he may need to declare martial law across the rest of the country if the terrorism threat spread.
A Muslim separatist rebellion in the southern Philippines has killed more than 120,000 people since the 1970s.
The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging lasting peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy.
But a range of hardline militants groups have rejected the peace process and in recent years have sought to unite behind ISIL.
* Agence France-Presse