Soldier still at large after shooting dead at least 21 people in Thailand rampage

Police and military storm shopping centre in search for assailant

Tom Embury-Dennis
Saturday 08 February 2020 13:20
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Gunshots heard as people flee from mass shooting in Thailand

A Thai soldier remained at large early on Sunday morning after killing at least 21 people in a shooting rampage in the northeast of the country, according to the country’s defence ministry. A government spokesperson said police and soldiers had saved hundreds of lives by storming a shopping centre in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima. also known as Korat, which is around 250km (155 miles) from the capital Bangkok.

The suspected attacker – named by police as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma – is still inside the Terminal 21 mall where a member of the Thai security services was killed and two were wounded in an attempted raid on the gunman’s position.

The man who was identified by police as the suspect had posted on his Facebook page earlier in the day that “death is inevitable for everyone”. He also posted a picture which appeared to show him holding a heavy-calibre revolver.

Jakrapanth Thomma (AFP via Getty Image)

The soldier opened fire at a number of locations in the city, police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said in a message to reporters.

Local media showed footage of the soldier getting out of a car in front of a shopping mall and firing a barrage of shots, sending people running.

Dozens of people were seen running from the shopping centre, live pictures on the local Amarin television network showed. The people came out in groups, some carrying children. Others supported elderly people, carrying them with one person on each side.

A police officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to release information, said the soldier had been involved in an argument about a land deal and shot two people who were involved – another soldier and a woman.

The man then took a new gun from the base where he was stationed outside the city and drove to the mall, shooting at people along the way. Several Thai media outlets reported that he travelled in a military vehicle. It is unclear how many people were wounded.

Video taken outside the mall and shared on social media showed people taking cover in a car park as gunshots rang out.

The mall was shut down and the street outside closed while authorities tried to arrest the gunman and rescue shoppers.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said police and military units had locked down the mall and the surrounding area.

A video posted on social media from inside a car before all surrounding streets were shut down shows a man driving while a woman shouts: “What’s happening? Why are they running?”

Several gunshots are heard as they drive away from the mall, and the woman says: “Is it a robbery?”

The alleged shooter’s Facebook profile picture shows him in a mask and dressed in military-style fatigues and armed with a pistol. The background image is of a handgun and bullets.

In a photo circulated on social media that appeared to be taken from his Facebook page, the suspect can be seen wearing a green camouflaged military helmet while a fireball and black smoke rage behind him. The Facebook page was made inaccessible after the shooting began.

Korat is a hub for Thailand‘s relatively poorer and rural northeastern region.

The size of the mall could pose a challenge for security forces as they try to capture the gunman. It consists of seven main retail floors, including one below ground level, and scores of shops and restaurants. It also houses a cinema on the top floor.

At just after 20.00 local time [13.00 GMT], the Royal Thai Police tweeted: “The gangster is currently in the area of Terminal 21 Korat, and continues to strafe, fire and fire within the mall.”

The gunman appeared to be armed with an assault rifle, based on security camera video aired on Thai Rath television.

Additional reporting by agencies

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