Hours after the first reports of an attack, the police and casino officials declared that the building had been cleared and all guests were accounted for. But some victims’ family members waiting outside the hotel told a different story as they waited in vain for loved ones to exit.
By midday Friday, as reports of the discovered bodies trickled out, conflicting narratives emerged. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault through its Amaq News Agency. In a brief message in Arabic, it said, “Islamic State fighters carried out the Manila attack in the Philippines yesterday.”
But the police discounted the possibility of a terrorist attack and blamed one irate gambler for it.
“He could have inflicted maximum casualties, but he did not,” said Oscar Albayalde, a police spokesman, noting that the man passed scores of unarmed fleeing patrons, who would have been easy targets if his aim was only to kill and frighten.
Instead, Mr. Albayalde said, the police were investigating whether robbery, rather than terrorism, was the motive.
One account from the authorities said the attacker took 130 million pesos in chips, worth about $70,000, during his spree. How he intended to cash them was not explained.
The police have not yet publicly identified the attacker. Rappler, a news site, reported that the gunman had been a longtime hotel guest who had a room on the fifth floor and was known to security personnel, which may have made it easier for him to sneak weapons into the resort.
Mr. Reilly, the resort executive, said the gunman had entered the resort’s mall on the second floor from the parking wing and made it past a security checkpoint and X-ray machine by firing shots into the air.
Mr. Reilly corroborated the police accounts that only one gunman was involved, adding: “He unloaded a number of shots.”
The assailant’s motive, he said, was still unclear.
Security guards tried unsuccessfully to slow the gunman, then shot and wounded him, Mr. Reilly said. One guard was also wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the assailant.
“Severe blood loss from the gunshot wound significantly slowed the assailant down and resulted in his holing up in a room where he took his own life,” he said.
The assailant died by setting himself on fire and shooting himself in the head, the police said.
The authorities said the gunman set fires in the resort’s casino. One man who escaped, a Filipino poker player who did not want to be identified, told the radio station DZMM that the hotel’s sprinklers did not work. Ian Manalo, a spokesman for the Bureau of Fire Protection, said the department was investigating why the fire became so deadly.
The bodies of two of the victims were discovered late in the day under a collapsed ceiling, said Tomas Apolinario, chief of Manila’s southern police district, bringing the total number to 37.
One was identified as Elizabeth Gonzales, the wife of a congressman. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said a South Korean citizen died of a heart attack after fleeing the hotel.
Mr. Apolinario said the authorities were seeking a person of interest, a Philippine citizen, but gave no details about the person or the connection to the attack.
The confusion and contradictory accounts of what happened come in a nation on edge because of a resurgent Islamist militant insurgency in the south, where President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law last week and said terrorist attacks were a possibility.
Mr. Duterte addressed members of the 102nd Infantry Brigade on the southern island of Mindanao on Friday but made no mention of the attack.
Since last month, the military has been locked in a battle against Islamist groups allied with the Islamic State on Mindanao.
On Friday evening, staff members of the casino held an impromptu Mass outside the resort and planted candles on the curb by the entrance. As the names of the dead were read aloud, many employees wiped away tears.
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