25 killed as soldier opens fire in Korat

NAKHON RATCHASIMA: Police and soldiers rescued hundreds of people from a shopping mall late Saturday night as they continued to hunt for a gunman who had holed up inside after killing at least 25 people.

The carnage began when the assailant stole weapons and ammunition and shot dead his commander and two others at the Surathampithak army camp before fleeing in a stolen Humvee. He fired at civilians along the route to the Terminal 21 shopping mall in Muang district.

“The gunman used a machine gun and shot innocent victims resulting in many injured and dead,” said a police spokesman.

Local media showed video of the soldier getting out of a vehicle in front of the mall around 6pm and firing a series of shots, sending people running. Gunshots could be heard on the video.

The attacker then fired at a cooking gas cylinder, setting off an explosion and fire. Video clips showed people running away and hiding behind cars as shots rang out.

There were unconfirmed reports that the man had hand grenades on his body.

Troops from a special warfare unit were dispatched to the mall, where the attacker was said to be holding 16 people hostage on the fourth floor.

Police Crime Suppression Division commandos were also on the scene. Police were taking the man’s mother from Chaiyaphum province to Korat in hopes that she could persuade him to surrender.

Around 8.30pm, it was reported that special forces troops were preparing to “engage” the shooter inside the shopping centre. The army asked media outlets to stop providing live coverage in order to avoid giving the suspect information about official activities.

Suspected shooter Jakrapanth Thomma is shown on his Facebook page.

The attacker streamed his earlier activity at the mall on Facebook Live and posted a selfie showing him holding a rifle. “Tired, I can barely move my fingers,” he said on a video posted at 7.20pm.

The Facebook page was taken offline a few moments later. Facebook later confirmed that it had removed the account and would also take down “any other violating content related to this attack”.

Other text messages posted before the page was taken down included “Should I surrender?” and “Oh shit, I’ve got cramps in my hand.” An earlier post said, “Nobody can avoid death”, and another one read, “Being rich from taking advantage of others, do they think they can use money in hell?”

There were reports later that a gunfire exchange at 3.30am on Sunday led to the death of a police officer and two colleagues were injured. The death toll rose to 25 and the number of injured people increased to 33.

Security officers laid siege to the shopping mall Sunday morning. Crowds of people donated blood at local hosptials in response to health authorities' request to save the injured.

Lt Gen Thanya Kriatisarn, commander of the Second Army Region, said police and soldiers were hunting the attacker, identified as Sgt Maj Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, of the Surathampithak camp.

The slain commander has been identified as Col Anantharot Krasae, with whom the gunman was reported to have had a conflict. A 63-year-old woman said to be Col Anantharot’s mother-in law was also killed at the camp, along with another soldier.

Related search: amp, people running, shopping mall, army camp

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Writer: Gary Boyle
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