‘No one can escape death’: Soldier’s mass killing at mall
A Thai soldier posted selfies and livestreamed his terrifying massacre in a Thai shopping mall on Facebook Live.
The man has killed as many as 20 people with more than 31 people wounded in a shooting on Saturday in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, health authorities said.
"We don't know why he did this. It appears he went mad," said defence ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit.
"The gunman used a machine gun and shot innocent victims resulting in many injured and dead," a police spokesman said.
A video shows soldier identified as Sgt. Jakkrapanth Thomma firing an assault rifle into the traffic close to Terminal 21 shopping mall in Korat. He has shot dead at least 12 victims so far, police say. #กราดยิงโคราช— Khaosod English (@KhaosodEnglish) February 8, 2020
Story: https://t.co/1qWp0ylxf8 pic.twitter.com/kR8XNeXaHp
A police officer contacted by phone in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima said the soldier had a quarrel about a land deal and shot two people who were involved, another soldier and a woman.
The police officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to release information, said the man took a gun from the military base where he is stationed outside the city and drove to the shopping mall, shooting along the way.
The city is also known as Korat and is located more than three hours drive from Bangkok.
The mall was shut down and the street outside was closed while the authorities tried to arrest the gunman.
According to the Bangkok Post, Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, killed his commanding officer then gunned down random people and livestreamed the attack on Facebook Live.
The slain commander has been identified as Colonel Anantharot Krasae, with whom the gunman was reported to have had a conflict.
A 63-year-old woman said to be Colonel Anantharot's mother-in law was also killed at the camp, along with another soldier.
Lt. Gen. Thanya Kriatisarn, commander of the Second Army Region, said police and soldiers were hunting the attacker.
The shooter has been identified as Jakrapanth Thomma, seen here taking a selfie he posted to Facebook of his handy work. pic.twitter.com/5qOOktEQFD— Stickboy Bangkok (@StickboyBangkok) February 8, 2020
Video posted on social media shows the gunman walking through the shopping mall fully armed with some reporting he has hand grenades on him.
Just sickening— Laura Takenaka (@TakenakaLaura) February 8, 2020
A witness who was inside the mall before the attack told AFP the shopping centre was thronging with shoppers on a long weekend.
"There were loads of people at the mall today," a 32-year-old from the city said, requesting anonymity.
"I was pretty shocked when I found out because I just left the mall not long before."
Street lights below the shopping centre were switched off as army and police units sealed off the Terminal 21 mall.
The attack is reminiscent of Brenton Tarrant's attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which he live streamed on Facebook.
The social media company was forced to address what it allows on its platform amid outrage that the video was able to be shared for anyone to see.
The gunman posted photos of himself and wrote several posts on his Facebook page including "should I surrender" and "no one can escape death".
In one Facebook video - since deleted - the assailant, wearing an army helmet, filmed from an open jeep saying, "I'm tired … I can't pull my finger anymore" and making a trigger symbol with his hand.
According to the Bangkok Post, three were slain on the Surathampithak army base before the attacker drove a stolen Humvee to the Terminal 21 shopping mall in Muang district, killed and wounded others, and reportedly took hostages.
EXCLUSIVE: Video shows Sgt. Jakkrapanth Thomma inside Terminal 21 shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasiman during his shooting rampage that killed at least 12 people. Latest info indicates he's holding 16 people as hostages. #กราดยิงโคราช https://t.co/1qWp0y3VQy pic.twitter.com/y8pqfzw0yw— Khaosod English (@KhaosodEnglish) February 8, 2020
Local media showed video of the gunman getting out of a vehicle in front of the mall around 6pm local time, and firing a series of shots, which sent people running.
Gunshots could be heard on the video.
The gunman shot at a cooking gas cylinder inside the mall's food court, causing it to explode and catch fire.
The authorities put nearby hospitals on alert and asked for blood donations. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Facebook that a doctor was shot while helping an injured person.
Troops have been dispatched to the mall, where the attacker is said to be holding 16 people hostage on the fourth floor.
More than 100 terrified shoppers have been evacuated as armed police said they had "taken control" of the ground floor of the complex.
The Crime Suppression Division of the Thai police urged fleeing people to "raise their hands" and identify themselves on the ground floor "and authorities will evacuate you" amid apparent fears the shooter could try to hide in the panicked crowds.
Police said they have secured the mall, and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said there are no more bodies left inside.
But he added, "we don't know whether there are any additional injuries or deaths or not." He did not say whether the shooter had been found.
Authorities have located Thomma's mother in the hopes that she can persuade him to give himself up.
The city - better known as Korat - is home to one of Thailand's largest barracks in a country where the military is enmeshed in politics and society.
Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world but mass shootings by soldiers targeting civilians are rare.
Several shootings at courthouses late last year also renewed concern about gun violence in the Southeast Asia country.
In one high-profile case, a two-year-old boy was among three people killed in Thailand when a masked gunman robbed a jewellery shop last month.
Late last year two lawyers were shot dead by a clerk at a court in the east of the country during a hearing over a land dispute.