A gunman identifed as a soldier angry over a financial dispute killed two people and then went on a far bloodier rampage Saturday in northeastern Thailand, shooting as he drove to a busy mall where shoppers fled in terror. At least 21 people were killed in all, 31 were injured and others were believed to be still inside the building as more gunshots rang out early Sunday.
The Thai Defense Ministry confirms Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma was behind the attack in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand’s relatively poorer and rural northeastern region. Much of the shooting took place at Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall filled with colorful Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of landmarks from around the world.
Video taken outside the mall showed people diving for cover as shots rang out mid-afternoon Saturday.
Many people were killed outside the mall, some in cars, others while walking.
The gunman initially also killed another soldier and a woman, and wounded a third person, apparently over a land dispute.
According to Thai mediat the first person killed was the commanding officer of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion, in which the suspect also served. He said the gunman had fired at others at his base and took guns and ammunition before fleeing in an army Humvee.
The gunman also has posted updates to his Facebook page during the rampage.
“No one can escape death,” read one post. Another asked, “Should I give up?” In a later post, he wrote, “I have stopped already.”
A photo circulated on social media that appeared to be taken from the Facebook page shows a man wearing a green camouflaged military helmet while a fireball and black smoke rage behind him. Jakrapanth’s profile picture shows him in a mask and dressed in military-style fatigues and armed with a pistol. The background image is of a handgun and bullets. The Facebook page was made inaccessible after the shooting began.
Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais own guns. Mass shootings are rare, though there are occasional gun battles in the far south of the country, where authorities have for years battled a long-running separatist insurgency.
The incident in Korat comes just a month after another high-profile mall shooting, in the central Thai city of Lopburi. In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewelry store. A suspect, a school director, was arrested less than two weeks later and reportedly confessed, saying he did not mean to shoot anyone.
The gunman has been shot dead by police, bringing an end to a 12-hour manhunt.Military officials announced earlier that the shooter had been killed on Sunday morning. The attacker was “shot dead” at around 9 a.m. local time .