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Death toll hits 21 from Thai shooting after security officers raid mall to stop soldier on rampage

Death toll hits 21 from Thai shooting after security officers raid mall to stop soldier on rampage
Thai security forces move to enter the Terminal 21 shopping mall following a gun battle, to try to stop a soldier on a rampage after a mass shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Feb 9, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, THAILAND - A member of the Thai security forces was killed early on Sunday (Feb 9) in a raid into a shopping mall to try to stop a soldier on a shooting rampage, bringing the total death toll to 21, the health minister said.

Two other members of the forces were wounded during the raid, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters as further explosions and shooting echoed from the Terminal 21 mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima.

Reuters video images showed one casualty being wheeled out to an ambulance. Another staggered from the building bare-chested as he was helped onto a stretcher.

The shooting spree began on Saturday afternoon when the soldier opened fire at a house before moving to an army base and then the shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km from the capital Bangkok, police said.

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

Thai security forces stormed the mall late on Saturday to rescue hundreds of people trapped there. 

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.

It was unclear how many shoppers and workers remained inside, Kongcheep said.

Police identified the suspect as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma.

“We are doing our best. You can see that all our senior officers of the government have been assigned here,” Anutin told reporters. “All steps are being taken with precautions so that we can minimise the damage as much as we can.”

More than 30 people have been wounded.  Police closed off streets around the mall and kept journalists behind a security cordon.

One military officer said the gunman was holed up in the mall’s basement. He did not give his name as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

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

Facebook said it had removed the suspect's account.


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

"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.

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

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.

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