At least 38 people have now been confirmed dead following an armed and arson attack, just minutes after midnight on Friday, on a resort and casino complex in the Philippine capital, Manila.
Government officials blamed the incident on an “emotionally disturbed individual”, who tried to carry out a robbery, by shooting at TV screens and setting on fire properties inside Resorts World Manila casino, suffocating many of the victims.
But several reports now say that a fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was responsible for the attack, a claim that Hermogenes Esperon, the national security adviser, dismissed as “plain and simple propaganda”.
Here is what we know so far:
The name of the individual, whom police identified as the “lone wolf” assailant, has not yet been released.
But reports attributed to ISIL media identified the attacker as “Abu Kheir al-Luzonee” and “Abu al-Kheir al-Arkhabili”. Manila, where the attack happened, is located in the main Philippine island of Luzon.
One purported ISIL statement also said the casino was targeted because it was “haram” or prohibited.
Oscar Albayalde, Manila police chief, said the attacker was “probably a foreigner”.
“He looks Caucasian, he talks English, he’s big and he’s white.”
The Philippine police has released an image of an armed men taken from closed-circuit television of the casino complex.
But his race and nationality remain in question.
However, Ronald dela Rosa, the Philippine police chief, ruled out “terrorism” as motive of the attack, saying that the suspect did not hurt the female security officer who tried to stop him.
He also said that the suspect “needed money”, prompting him to “ransack” the storage facility of the casino and get away with an estimated $2.3m worth of gambling chips.
The suspect later killed himself, by dousing himself with flammable liquid, dela Rosa said.
He also said that the remains of the suspect was badly burned, making him unrecognisable.
Another statement from Albayalde said the suspect shot himself in the head, before setting himself on fire inside one of the rooms of the hotel adjacent to the gambling area.
A separate statement from the hotel management said security personnel from the resort shot and wounded the attacker.
“Severe blood loss from the gunshot wound significantly slowed the assailant down, and resulted to his holing up in a room where he took his own life,” the statement said.
According to reports citing authorities, at least 38 bodies were found at the casino complex, including that of the suspect. At least 78 others were injured.
Police said the victims suffocated from thick smoke, after the suspect burned tables inside the gambling area of the complex.
An initial report of fatalities released by the resort management only listed 35 fatalities, excluding the suspect.
The list included 13 employees and 22 guests.
A South Korean foreign ministry official said one of its nationals died during the attack.
Gil Yongco, 54, was quoted as saying that his daughter was trapped at the complex during the attack, and called him for help.
An employee of the hotel named Hazel Yongco was later identified as one of the fatalities.
Jessica Alindogan, another employee, was also confirmed dead.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, she left behind her husband, Michael, and their young daughter, Micah.
In her Facebook page, one commenter said, “Thanks for the friendship. We love you.”
Young moms, fathers, beloved bosses among those who died in the Resorts World Manila attack https://t.co/BQKRTLItbB
— Anthony Q. Esguerra (@AEsguerraINQ) June 2, 2017
Elizabeth Gonzales, wife of a member of the Philippine Congress, was also listed as one of those who died.
Authorities have not established a link between the incident in Manila and the continued fighting in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
Before the incident early on Friday, police in the Philippines were already on high alert following the siege in the city of Marawi, which was blamed on armed groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL.
According to the latest reports, at least 178 people have been killed in the almost two-week fighting.
Foreign fighters, including nationals from Malaysia and Indonesia, were among the fatalities in the clashes, according to reports.
Due to the fighting in Marawi, Duterte has declared a martial law across the entire island of Mindanao.
He hinted that he could expand the order to the entire country if violence spreads.
On Friday, Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine defence minister, told Rappler news website that ISIL fighters “are now” in the country.
So far Duterte has remained mum about the deadly Manila incident, which US President Donald Trump referred to as a “terrorist attack”.
|Most of the fatalities died from smoke inhalation during the attack [EPA]|
Source: Al Jazeera News