A Thai soldier who went wild in a busy shopping center and a nearby military camp, killing at least 21 people, was shot dead by security forces, an official said.
“The police killed the attacker and rescued eight hostages. Some were injured,” said one of the security sources.
Both refused to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
AP reports that officials have said the soldier was angry at a financial dispute.
The sergeant engaged the police into a deadlock for several hours in Thailand after he shot his commander, took several military firearms and drove a stolen Humvee to a shopping center.
The chaotic violence sparked a tense confrontation with the gunman, who was locked up in the mall early in the morning. The alleged shooter, wearing an assault rifle and wearing camouflage and a helmet, was identified by authorities as Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, a Thai army sergeant.
The attack is at least the second mall to shoot in Thailand this year. On January 9, a masked gunman shot and killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, while robbing a jewelry store in the city of Lopburi, the Associated Press reported. A suspect was arrested, allegedly confessed and said that he did not intend to shoot anyone, according to the AP.
Saturday’s violence began around 3:30 p.m. local time, when police said that Thomma had shot his commander, taken several military firearms and traveled about 14 km in a stolen Humvee to the Terminal 21 shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima, where he shot buyers and drivers. crowded roads. The city, also known as Korat, is about three and a half hours by car from Bangkok.
The precise movements of the shooter throughout the city remain unclear. Authorities have not specified how many died at the military camp and how many were killed at the mall. At least 31 people were reportedly injured.
A police officer from Nakhon Ratchasima told the PA by phone that the murder began when the gunman shot another soldier and a woman and injured a third person before escaping with guns and ammunition.
Police said they had recovered the shooter’s mother in the neighboring province of Chaiyaphum, about 60 miles away, and planned to use her to negotiate with the suspect.
“We don’t know why he did this,” Thai Defense Ministry spokesperson Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Al Jazeera.
“It seems he has gone mad.”
It is relatively easy to legally obtain a firearm in Thailand. Beyond military use, a prospective gun owner must demonstrate a valid reason for owning a firearm, such as hunting or self-defense. The minimum age to own a gun in Thailand is 20, and the owner must pass a criminal background check.
The annual gun death rate in 2016 in Thailand was 2.54 per 100,000 people, according to the University of Sydney School of Public Health. In the United States, the rate was 11.96 deaths per 100,000 population in the same year. In recent years, the total number of gunshot deaths in Thailand has increased from 3,420 in 2007 to 1,729 in 2016.
Officials said the soldier angry over a financial dispute first killed two people and then went wild on Saturday, shooting while on his way to a busy shopping center where buyers fled in terror.
Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Kongcheep Tantrawanich said the sergeant. Major Jakrapanth Thomma was behind the attack on Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub in the relatively poor and rural northeast region of Thailand.
Much of the filming took place at Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed shopping center filled with colorful Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of monuments from around the world.
A video taken outside the mall showed people diving to hide as gunshots rang out in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. Many were killed outside the mall, some in cars, others while walking.
Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunshots.
“I first saw a woman hysterically walk out of the mall,” said Nattaya, who videotaped the scene on her phone. “Then a motorcyclist in front of her ran and left her motorcycle there.”
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while searching for the shooter.
“We were afraid and ran to hide in the toilet,” said Sumana Jeerawattanasuk, one of the people rescued by the police. She said that seven or eight people hid in the same room as her.
“I am so happy. I was so afraid of hurting myself,” she said.
Shortly before midnight, the police announced that they had secured the above-ground portion of the mall, but were still looking for the shooter. About 16 hours later, authorities held a press conference outside the mall to announce that the shooter had been shot.
The officials did not release any details.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep told Thai media that the first person killed was the commander of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion, in which the suspect also served. He said the gunman shot other people at his base and took rifles and ammunition before fleeing to an Army Humvee.
City and neighborhood police, who asked not to be identified as they were not allowed to release information, said the man had shot while on his way to the mall .
Thai television Rath broadcast security camera images from a shopping mall showing a man with what appeared to be an assault rifle.
The man also posted updates to his Facebook page during the unleashing.
A social media photo that appears to have been taken on the Facebook page shows a man in a camouflaged green military helmet as a ball of fire and black smoke rage behind him.
Jakrapanth’s profile photo shows him in a mask and dressed in military-style clothing and armed with a pistol. The background image shows a handgun and bullets. The Facebook page was made inaccessible after the shooting began.
Terminal 21 Korat, a multi-level glass and steel shopping mall, is designed to resemble an airport terminal, with a false control tower and departure gates. A large passenger jet hangs from the wires next to one of the main escalators.
Each of its seven retail floors is decorated to represent a different country. A giant replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris rises to the ceiling, while a model of the Big Ben in London dominates another area, and a massive model of the Golden Gate Bridge in California spans an open courtyard. A golden statue of Oscar on two floors dominates a food court.
Many shopping malls in Thailand, including the namesake of Terminal 21 in Bangkok, have metal detectors and security cameras at entrances manned by uniformed but unarmed security guards. Controls on those entering are often superficial at best.
Armed violence is not unknown in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais have firearms. Mass shooting is rare, although there is sometimes gun fighting in the far south of the country, where authorities have fought for years for a long-standing separatist insurgency.
The incident in Korat comes just a month after another shooting in a large shopping mall in the central city of Lopburi in Thailand. In this case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, and injured four others while robbing a jewelry store. A suspect, a school principal, was arrested less than two weeks later and reportedly confessed that he did not want to shoot anyone.