“We cannot say this is an act of terror, he did not hurt anyone,” Ronald dela Rosa told DZMM radio “If you are a terrorist you will sow terror.”
Philippines Red Cross earlier reported that 25 victims had been delivered to hospitals across Manila, but dela Rosa said that the injuries may have resulted from the panic, resulting from the appearance of the attacker, who reportedly carried a gun and gasoline, which he used to start a fire.
“The police are on-site We have evacuated the building to make sure our patrons and staff are safe,” said Resorts World Manila chief operating officer Stephen Reilly.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, via a channel it normally uses to report on its uprising against the government in the province of Marawi, SITE Intelligence Group reports.
Hotel staff fleeing their workplace told local news outlets that a masked gunman appeared on the second floor of a hotel inside the complex, which is home to a shopping center, casino and movie theater. The Philippines Fire Protection Bureau has warned that a fire has broken out on the same floor.
“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, en employee, told DZMM radio.
“We went to the basement locker room and hid there. People were screaming, guests and employees were in panic,” Navaro said. When we smelled smoke, we decided to go for the exit in the carpark. That’s where we got out. Before we exited, we heard two gunshots and there was thick smoke on the ground floor.”
The US State Department has acknowledged the attack and warned citizens to stay away from the vicinity of the mall, including the country’s main Ninoy Aquino Airport, which is responsible for handling over 100,000 passengers daily.
The incident came amid an escalating standoff between government forces and Islamist rebels on the traditionally restive southern island of Mindanao, which have been re-energized by an alliance with Islamic State.
Over 170 people, most of them militants, have died in recent weeks as the government has deployed the army to retake the city of Marawi from the Islamists. Martial law has been declared on Mindanao, home to 20 million people, and President Rodrigo Duterte said that its use could be extended nationwide, prior to the Manila attack on Friday morning.