Thai Soldier Kills 29 in Rampage Before Being Fatally Shot

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand—A soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations in and around the northeastern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima before he was shot dead early Sunday.

Most of the victims were at the citys Terminal 21 shopping center, where the shooter held out against an overnight siege with an assault rifle and ammunition stolen from his army base.

Police named him as 32-year-old soldier Jakrapanth Thomma. He initially posted written messages on Facebook during the attack before his account was shut down by the company.

“It was a personal conflict…over a house deal,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters on Sunday from Nakhon Ratchasima after traveling there to meet wounded survivors.

Prayuth added that the conflict was with a relative of the soldiers commanding officer.

Thailand mass shooting
Thailand mass shooting
An image of a suspect Jakrapanth Thomma on a wanted poster, after a mass shooting in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, in a document released by the Thai Crime Suppression Bureau in Thailand on Feb. 8, 2020. (Thai Crime Suppression Bureau/Handout via Reuters)

Hundreds of shoppers fled the mall in groups crouching low, and the police and army launched several rescues during the more than 12-hour standoff, with armed forces at one point emerging at a run carrying small children.

“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.

Another survivor told local Amarin TV that the shooter was “aiming for the heads” and said his colleague died on the scene.

“He was shooting everywhere and his shots were very precise,” said the man, identified as “Diaw”.

Thailand mass shooting
Thailand mass shooting
Thai security forces evacuate people who were stranded inside the Terminal 21 shopping mall following a gun battle, to try to stop a soldier on a rampage after a mass shooting, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Feb. 9, 2020. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

At a morgue in Nakhon Ratchasima, the family of 13-year-old Ratchanon Karnchanamethee sobbed as they identified his body.

“Hes my only son. He hasnt even had dinner,” said his father, Natthawut Karnchanamethee. “I allowed him to do anything he wanted to. I never set expectations for him. I only wanted him to be a good person.”

The provinces governor, Wichien Chantaranochai, on Sunday night said a total of 29 people had been killed and 57 were wounded.

Also known by the historical name Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima has a population of about 250,000. It is close to a national park popular for its wild elephants but the relatively poor northeastern region is one of the less visited areas for Thailands tens of millions of tourists.

Stolen Arsenal

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.

According to local media, Jakrapanth worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Bangkok.

He was a sharp shooter and took many special courses on carrying out attacks, including planning ambushes, army sources said. Thai media reported he often posted photos of weapons on social media.

The killings began at around 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Saturday when the soldier opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then driving to the mall in a stolen Humvee.

Thailand security forces enter in a shopping mall as they chase a shooter hidden in after a mass shooting in front of the Terminal 21, in Nakhon Ratchasima
Thailand security forces enter in a shopping mall as they chase a shooter hidden in after a mass shooting in front of the Terminal 21, in Nakhon Ratchasima
Thailand security forces enter in a shopping mall as they chase a shooter hidden in after a mass shooting in front of the Terminal 21, in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Feb 9, 2020. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

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