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Thailand: Soldier shot dead after he killed over 25 people in shopping mall

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 9 February 2020, 12:22 IST

The soldier who gunned down 26 people before being shot dead by commandos in northeastern Thailand did it over a 'personal problem', Thai premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Sunday.

"It is unprecedented in Thailand, and I want this to be the last time this crisis happens," he said outside a hospital where victims were sent after they were evacuated from the shopping mall where the 17-hour rampage took place. Prayut added that the gunman's motive was linked to the sale of a house.

It was unclear how many people remained trapped inside the Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima -- also known as Korat -- where the gunman held out through the night, armed with assault weapons stolen from his barracks.

Volleys of gunfire rang out as the siege ran into dawn, hours after Thai security services stormed the ground floor and freed scores of stunned, terrified shoppers from a bloody rampage that the gunman -- a junior army officer identified as Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma -- had relayed via Facebook posts. "He was shot dead thirty minutes ago" (0200 GMT), chief of the Crime Suppression Division Jirabhob Bhuridej told AFP.

Commandos from elite Thai police units killed the gunman, a police spokesman added, after an operation involving hundreds of security personnel. "The official death toll is 20 and wounded 42... nine are in surgery," Narinrat Pitchayakamin, a Korat doctor, told reporters, revising down an initial death toll of 21. But it was unclear if there were more victims inside the multi-level complex which was packed with Saturday shoppers when the gunman stormed in.

 A fleet of ambulances left the front of the complex and forensic police poured into the grim crime scene, shortly before the gunman's death was confirmed. The night was peppered with heavy exchanges of gunfire and sporadic evacuations.

A police officer who took part in a raid to flush out the gunman died, according to deputy prime minister Anutin Charnvirakul. "He had been hit and unfortunately, he couldn't make it," said Anutin.

 Shocked evacuees recounted how an ordinary Saturday shopping day at the busy mall descended into horror as the gunman entered. "It was like a dream... I'm grateful I survived," Sottiyanee Unchalee, 48, told AFP, explaining she hid in the toilet of a gym inside the mall as she heard the gunfire. "I'm so sorry for those who died... (and) the people still trapped inside." Jakrapanth relayed his shooting spree through Facebook posts which charted the attack from the army barracks in the city to the mall, where an unknown number of shoppers remained trapped. A volunteer rescue worker recounted a bloody scene of horror after his team carried four corpses to the hospital.

(With PTI Inputs)

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First published: 9 February 2020, 12:22 IST