MANILA, Philippines (AP) — 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.
Philippine police rushed to the Resorts World Manila complex early Friday after gunshots rang out at the commercial center, where smoke began billowing from an upper floor of the mall.
There were reports of injuries by witnesses, including a SWAT member, who rushed to the scene and was reportedly fired upon by unidentified men.
Resorts World Manila said in its Facebook account that it was "currently 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 have not given details about the incident but have begun cordoning off the area near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
"I heard many, many gunshots," Julio Silva, a witness who managed to dash out of the mall complex, told DZMM radio network.
The incident is unfolding amid a 10-day deadly siege by Muslim militants aligned to the Islamic State group in the southern city of Marawi. The attack has sparked fears that the militants may attack elsewhere to divert the focus of thousands of troops trying to quell the siege.
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 that "lone wolf soldiers" of the Islamic State group is responsible for the attack at Resorts World Manila.
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."