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Resorts World gunman dead, says police

Screengrab from CCTV footage showing the unidentified gunman in the Resorts World attack. Southern Police District

MANILA, Philippines (First published, 7:44 a.m.) — Philippine police say the suspect in the attack on a hotel and casino complex near Manila's airport has been found dead of apparent suicide.

Metropolitan Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde says the English-speaking suspect was found dead with his rifle on the fifth floor of the Resorts World Manila complex. He says the gunman apparently killed himself.

Police are searching the suspect's car, parked on the second floor. Before the attack, he got out of the car and entered the building with his rifle.

Abayalde says the guards at the door ran away after seeing the armed man.

The suspect took P113 million ($226,000) worth of gambling chips, which were found in a bag he was carrying.

Abayalde says there was no indication of terrorism. He says either the suspect lost in the casino and wanted to get his money back, or went "totally nuts."

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The lifeless body of the suspect, described as "foreign-looking" by Philippine National Police chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa, was found inside Room 510 of the hotel's fifth floor after a long chase with the authorities.

The attack sent hundreds fleeing into the night and produced an immediate claim of terrorism from an Islamic State-affiliated operative, according to U.S. terror monitors.

Police patrol outside a hotel at the Resorts World Manila complex, early Friday, June 2, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. Gunshots and explosions rang out early Friday at a mall, casino and hotel complex near Manila's international airport in the Philippine capital, sparking a security alarm amid an ongoing Muslim militant siege in the country's south. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

But within three hours of the violence at the complex near Manila's airport, police stressed that they uncovered no ties to terror and suggested the motive could have been robbery.

"He would have shot all the people gambling there" if it had been terrorism, said Dela Rosa. "But he did not hurt anyone."

Added dela Rosa: "Do not panic. This is not a cause for alarm. We are just alert. ... We cannot attribute this to terrorism without concrete evidence."

The security guard shot was the waist by the gunman and about 75 others suffered mostly minor injuries such as bruising as they stampeded to get out, said police officer Jeffrey Francisco.

Police said there was no indication any hostages had been taken by the lone gunman.

The violence unfolded as Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group fended off government forces for a 10th day in the southern city of Marawi.

That unrest had sparked fears that the militants might attack elsewhere to divert the focus of thousands of troops trying to quell the siege.

In Friday's attack, the gunman stole gambling chips, shot TV screens and set gambling tables ablaze by pouring gasoline on them at Resorts World Manila, dela Rosa said.

But he said the assailant did not fire at people he encountered. The national police chief described him as "white, with a mustache" and about 6 feet tall.

It was not clear how the gunman smuggled gasoline and an assault rifle into the crowded casino or what prompted dela Rosa to cast doubt on terrorism so quickly.

Dela Rosa said CCTV footage showed the gunman ignoring a security 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.

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. She was not moving and was probably dead.

"I got her bag so her family will know what happened to her," he said. "I don't know if she is still there."

About 90 minutes after the attack began, Resorts World Manila said on its Facebook page that it was "on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men," adding: "The company is working closely with the Philippine National Police to ensure that all guests and employees are safe."

"We ask for your prayers during these difficult times," the company said.

Philippine police cordoned off the area near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

"I heard many, many gunshots," Julio Silva, a casino player who managed to dash out of the mall complex amid the gunfire, told DZMM radio network.

Silva said he saw a SWAT member who was shouting: "I was hit, I was hit."

As news of the attack spread, U.S. 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.

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 claimed "lone wolf soldiers" of the Islamic State group were responsible for the attack.

An English message by the operative was distributed across several pro-IS 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."

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Associated Press journalists Teresa Cerojano, Joeal Calupitan and Bullit Marquez in Manila contributed to this report.

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