Thai soldier kills 26 in rampage

SIEGE AFTERMATH: Ambulances carrying the bodies of victims of a mass shooting at the Terminal 21 shopping mall leave the complex in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday. A Thai soldier killed at least 26 people there before being shot dead
SIEGE AFTERMATH: Ambulances carrying the bodies of victims of a mass shooting at the Terminal 21 shopping mall leave the complex in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday. A Thai soldier killed at least 26 people there before being shot dead
Image: CHALINEE THIRASUPA/ AFP

A soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 26 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations in and around the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima before he was shot dead early on Sunday.

Most of the victims were at the Terminal 21 shopping centre in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, where the shooter held out against an overnight siege with an assault rifle and ammunition stolen from his army base.

Police named him as 32-year-old soldier Jakrapanth Thomma.

He initially posted messages on Facebook during the attack before his account was shut down by the company.

“It was a personal conflict .. over a house deal,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said.

Prayuth said the conflict had been with a relative of the soldier’s commanding officer.

Hundreds of shoppers fled the mall, and the police and army launched several rescues during the more than 12-hour standoff, with armed forces at one point emerging at a run carrying small children.

“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,” Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, 27, her voice trembling after she emerged, said.

Another survivor said the shooter had been “aiming for the heads” and said his colleague had died on the scene.

“He was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise,” the man, identified as Diaw, said.

At a morgue in Nakhon Ratchasima, the family of 13-year-old Ratchanon Karnchanamethee sobbed as they identified his body.

“He’s my only son,” his father, Natthawut Karnchanamethee, said.

Also known by the historical name Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima has a population of about 250,000.

It is close to a national park popular for its wild elephants but the relatively poor northeastern region is one of the lesser-visited areas for Thailand’s tens of millions of tourists.

 

People gather outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall as they seek information on picking up vehicles and other belongings left during a mass shooting at the complex in Nakhon Ratchasima on February 9 2020.
People gather outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall as they seek information on picking up vehicles and other belongings left during a mass shooting at the complex in Nakhon Ratchasima on February 9 2020.
Image: AFP / CHALINEE THIRASUPA

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

According to local media, Jakrapanth worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250km from the capital Bangkok.

He was a sharp shooter and took special courses on carrying out attacks, including planning ambushes, army sources said.

Thai media reported he often posted photos of weapons on social media

The killings began at around 3pm on Saturday when the soldier opened fire on a house before moving to an army camp and then driving to the mall in a stolen Humvee.

The soldier's commanding officer was one of the first people reportedly killed before the soldier moved on to the shopping mall and began shooting.

At some point during the day, the soldier raided the army camp’s weapons storage to arm himself.

Hours before he began shooting on Saturday, Jakrapanth posted on his Facebook account denouncing greedy people.

“Rich from cheating. Taking advantage of other people. Do they think they can spend the money in hell?” read one post in Thai.

He later posted written updates during the attack.

“Death is inevitable for everyone,” he wrote.

Later, he complained about his fingers cramping and asked “Should I give up?” before the account was no longer available.

Hours after the mall siege began, Facebook said it had removed the suspect’s account.

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

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