A soldier killed at least 20 people in a shooting rampage in northeastern Thailand on Saturday, posting messages on Facebook during the attack, and was holed up in a shopping mall nine hours after he first struck, authorities said.
Police and soldiers stormed the Terminal 21 mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima and helped hundreds of people to escape but the gunman was still at large inside, defence ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Reuters.
The soldier opened fire in several places, including a house and an army base, before heading to the mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km (155 miles) 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, sending people fleeing for cover.
“We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad,” Kongcheep said.
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.
Police identified the suspect as Jakrapanth Thomma. During the attack he posted “Death is inevitable for everyone” on his Facebook page and later asked “Should I give up?”
‘WHY DID HE DO IT?’
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 Southeast Asian country other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.
A woman told Thailand’s Channel One television she heard gunshots when she was at the mall and hid in a clothing store with other people before escaping.
The shooter first went to a house in the city and shot two people dead before going to an army base, where he took a gun from the weapons store and fired at people, local police said.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul asked on his Facebook page for blood donations at four hospitals in the area.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed condolences to the families of those killed, a government spokeswoman said.
Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the biggest cities in northeastern Thailand, a rice growing area and one of the poorest parts of the country of 69 million people