Thailand shooting: Soldier killed by police after gunning down 26 people

9 February 2020, 10:53

Officers outside Terminal 21 Korat shopping centre / gunman Jakrapanth Thomma
Officers outside Terminal 21 Korat shopping centre / gunman Jakrapanth Thomma. Picture: PA / Facebook

By Megan White

A soldier has been killed by police after gunning down 26 people and wounding 57 in Thailand's worst mass shooting.

Authorities said Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma first killed two people on a military base and then went on a far bloodier rampage, shooting as he drove to a shopping complex where people fled in terror.

It took armed police 16 hours to end the attack in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand's relatively poor and rural north-eastern region.

Much of the shooting took place at Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall filled with colourful Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of landmarks from around the world.

"This incident was unprecedented in Thailand," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters as he gave the final death toll on Sunday morning after visiting the wounded in hospitals.

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visits the injured following a mass shooting
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visits the injured following a mass shooting. Picture: PA

"I hope this is the only one and the last incident, and that it never happens again. No one wants this to happen. It could be because of this person's mental health in this particular moment," he said.

Video taken outside the mall showed people diving for cover as shots rang out mid-afternoon on Saturday.

Many were killed outside the mall, some in cars and others while walking.

Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunfire.

"First I saw a woman run out from the mall hysterically," said Ms Nattaya, who shot video of the scene on her phone.

Medics carry a stretcher towards Terminal 21 Korat mall
Medics carry a stretcher towards Terminal 21 Korat mall. Picture: PA

"Then a motorcycle rider in front of her just ran and left his motorcycle there."

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while they searched for the gunman.

"We were scared and ran to hide in toilets," said Sumana Jeerawattanasuk, one of those rescued by police. She said seven or eight people hid in the same room as her.

"I am so glad. I was so scared of getting hurt," she said.

Shortly before midnight, police announced they had secured the above-ground portion of the mall, but were still searching for the gunman.

About 16 hours later, officials held a news conference to announce the gunman had been shot dead.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep told Thai media that the first person killed was the commanding officer of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion, in which the suspect also served. He said the gunman had fired at others at his base and took guns and ammunition before fleeing in an army Humvee.