Thai soldier kills at least 20 after opening fire in shopping centre

8 February 2020, 19:36

The shooting suspect Jakraphanth Thomma
The shooting suspect Jakraphanth Thomma. Picture: Facebook

By Maddie Goodfellow

Police and the army have stormed a shopping centre in north-eastern Thailand after a soldier shot dead at least 20 people and injured 31 others.

The gunman was reported to be holed up at a popular shopping mall, according to police.

He initially went into a house and shot two people dead, before getting a new gun from a nearby weapons store.

He also opened fire at three other locations across the city.

A Cabinet minister in Thailand says at least 20 people have been killed and 31 injured in a mass shooting.

The gunman, described by police as a soldier angry over a land dispute, holed up in a popular shopping mall in north-western Thailand.

Police say they have now secured the mall.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says there are no more bodies left inside the mall.

But he says: "We don't know whether there are any additional injuries or deaths or not."

He did not say whether the shooter had been found.

Mr Anutin earlier said that a doctor was shot while helping an injured person.

He also live streamed the shooting on his Facebook page, which has since been deleted.

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

The rifle used by the alleged attacker
The rifle used by the alleged attacker. Picture: PA

Shortly before midnight, police announced they had secured the entire mall. They released photos of officers escorting people to the exits, but they gave no information about the gunman's whereabouts.

A police officer contacted by phone in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima said the soldier initially shot dead another soldier and a woman and wounded a third person, apparently over a land dispute. Nakhon Ratchasima is also known as Korat.

City and neighbourhood police officers said the man took a gun from his base and drove to the Terminal 21 Korat mall, shooting along the way.

Several Thai media reported that he travelled in a military vehicle.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich identified the suspect as Sgt Jakrapanth Thomma.

He said police and military units had locked down the mall and the surrounding area.

The incident began at about 3.30pm, and appeared to be unresolved five hours later.

A police officer in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima said the soldier initially shot dead another soldier and a woman and wounded a third person, apparently over a land dispute.

City and neighbourhood police officers said the man took a gun from his base and drove to the Terminal 21 mall, shooting along the way.

Several Thai media reported that he travelled in a military vehicle. Nakhon Ratchasima is also known as Korat.

The suspect's motive remains unclear.

The shopping mall where the shooting took place
The shopping mall where the shooting took place. Picture: PA

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

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

Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Kongcheep Tantrawanich identified the suspect as Sergeant Jakrapanth Thomma. He said police and military units had locked down the mall and the surrounding area.

The suspect posted messages on his Facebook page during the rampage, including "No one can escape death" and "Should I give up?".

In a later post, he wrote: "I have stopped already."

In one photo on the page, he is shown wearing a green camouflaged military helmet while a fireball and black smoke rage behind him.

Nakhon Ratchasima is about 150 miles north east of the capital Bangkok.

The Terminal 21 shopping mall is on a major road near the centre of the city, which is a hub for Thailand's relatively poorer and rural north-eastern region.

Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais own guns. Mass shootings are rare apart from in the far south where authorities have for years battled a separatist insurgency.

The incident came a month after another high-profile mall shooting, in the central city of Lopburi. In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a two-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewellery store.

A school director was arrested less than two weeks later and reportedly confessed, saying he did not mean to shoot anyone.

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