Soldier kills 20 in shooting rampage in Thailand’s north-east

People hug each other after being rescued by Thai commandos.
People hug each other after being rescued by Thai commandos.PHOTO: AFP
People gather outside after being rescued by Thai commandos.
People gather outside after being rescued by Thai commandos.PHOTO: AFP
People gather outside after being rescued by Thai commandos.
People gather outside after being rescued by Thai commandos.PHOTO: AFP
People trapped by the incident are rescued by officials.
People trapped by the incident are rescued by officials.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Thailand security forces enter the shopping mall as they hunt the shooter.
Thailand security forces enter the shopping mall as they hunt the shooter.PHOTO: REUTERS
Thai rescue workers help an injured victim.
Thai rescue workers help an injured victim.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Thai security forces take cover behind an ambulance as they hunt down the shooter.
Thai security forces take cover behind an ambulance as they hunt down the shooter.PHOTO: REUTERS
Thai security forces enter the mall.
Thai security forces enter the mall.PHOTO: REUTERS
Thailand security forces evacuate people from the shopping mall.
Thailand security forces evacuate people from the shopping mall.PHOTO: REUTERS
People avacuated from the mall talk to each other after the shooting.
People avacuated from the mall talk to each other after the shooting.PHOTO: REUTERS
A screenshot  from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma shows him at an unknown location.
A screenshot from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma shows him at an unknown location.PHOTO: AFP
A screenshot from the Facebook livestream video of Thai soldier Jakrapanth Thomma shows him standing in front of a building on fire during an attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima on Feb 8, 2020.
A screenshot from the Facebook livestream video of Thai soldier Jakrapanth Thomma shows him standing in front of a building on fire during an attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima on Feb 8, 2020.PHOTO: AFP
A screenshot from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma shows him holding a gun at an unknown location.
A screenshot from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma shows him holding a gun at an unknown location.PHOTO: AFP
People run away from the shopping mall after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
People run away from the shopping mall after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.PHOTO: REUTERS
People leave a shopping mall after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
People leave a shopping mall after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.PHOTO: REUTERS
People are evacuated from a shopping mall by members of security forces after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
People are evacuated from a shopping mall by members of security forces after a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.PHOTO: REUTERS
A handout photo from a security video shows the suspected Thai soldier carrying a rifle.
A handout photo from a security video shows the suspected Thai soldier carrying a rifle.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Armed Thai soldiers on guard behind a defensive line outside the mall.
Armed Thai soldiers on guard behind a defensive line outside the mall.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, THAILAND (REUTERS) – A Thai soldier shot dead at least 20 people on Saturday (Feb 8), posting messages on Facebook as he went on the rampage in a northeastern city where he was still holed up in a mall well over 12 hours after he first struck, authorities said.

Thai security forces stormed the Terminal 21 mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima and helped hundreds of people to escape.

Looking dazed and exhausted, shoppers and storeworkers came out in small groups into the early hours of Sunday as police and soldiers worked through the mall floor by floor.

“It was frightening because I could hear the occasional gunshot... we waited a long time for the police to come and help us, many hours.” said Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, 27, her voice trembling after she emerged.

Several bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard from inside the mall just after 2.40am (3.40am  Singapore time) and Reuters photographer Athit Perawongmetha saw two wounded members of the security forces being brought out.

The suspected shooter was identified by police as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma.

During the attack he posted “Death is inevitable for everyone” on his Facebook page and later asked “Should I give up?” 

The attack began at around 3pm local time, when the suspect opened fire at a house.

He then moved to an army base, before heading to the shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250km from the capital Bangkok, police said.

Local media showed footage of the soldier getting out of a car in front of the mall and firing off a series of shots as people fled for cover.

“We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad,” Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Reuters.


A screenshot from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma, a Thai soldier wanted in connection to a deadly attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, shows him at an unknown location. PHOTO: AFP

One video from a bystander showed a man slumped at the wheel of a car in a pool of blood. It was unclear if he was among the dead.

Another video showed at least four people who had clearly been shot and showed no sign of movement.

CCTV footage from inside the mall posted on social media showed the gunman dressed in black and wearing a mask, his gun slung over his shoulder with no sign of other people around.

 
 

Kongcheep said at least 20 people had been killed and it was not clear whether the gunman had taken hostages in the mall.

“It’s not known how many are still inside,” he said.

The health ministry said 31 people had been wounded and 10 were in a critical condition.

FACEBOOK POSTS

Thai media said the suspected shooter had worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima.

Before the attack, Jakrapanth had posted on his Facebook account that he was out for vengeance – but he did not say for what.

Facebook said it had removed the suspect’s account.

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this tragedy in Thailand. There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.

Thai media said the suspect’s mother was being taken to the mall to try to persuade him to give up. 

Video showed her in tears saying “why did he do it?” as she got in a police vehicle.

Major shootings are rare in the South-east Asian country other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.

The shooter first went to a house in the city and shot two people dead before going to the army base, where he took a gun from the weapons store and fired at people, police said.

In a post on Facebook, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul asked for blood donations at four hospitals in the area.

Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the biggest cities in northeastern Thailand, an island of relative prosperity in a rice growing area that is one of the poorest parts of the country of 69 million people.

The Terminal 21 mall stands out in the city with its observation tower and its gleaming displays and brightly flashing advertising panels for well-known brands.