A crazed Thai Army soldier has killed 20 people in a shooting rampage in Thailand’s north eastern city of Korat late Saturday. Police and soldiers rescued hundreds of people as the soldier live streamed his rampage on Facebook.
The carnage began around 3.30pm when the soldier shot dead his commander and two others at the Surathampithak army camp before stealing weapons and ammunition and fleeing in a stolen Humvee.
He fired at civilians along the route to the Terminal 21 shopping mall, which was packed with shoppers celebrating the long weekend. Many more people were slain inside the mall, where the gunman live-streamed the mayhem.
Facebook has since taken down the video from Facebook Live and his page was shut down.
“The gunman used a machine gun and shot innocent victims resulting in many injured and dead,” said Pol Col Krissana Pattanacharoen, the police spokesman.
Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanit said late Saturday that 20 deaths had been confirmed. Another 31 people were reported injured, some seriously.
Officers who stormed the building late Saturday urged the gunman to surrender but they were met with angry shouts and more gunfire.
Security Cameras captured footage of the Thai Soldier
Local media showed video of the soldier getting out of a vehicle in front of the mall around 6pm and firing a series of shots, sending people running. Gunshots could be heard on the video.
The attacker then fired at a cooking gas cylinder, setting off an explosion and fire. Video clips showed people running away and cowering behind cars as thunderous shots rang out.
Troops from a special warfare unit were dispatched to the mall, where the attacker was said to be holding 16 people hostage on the fourth floor.
Police Crime Suppression Division commandos arrived from Bangkok by helicopter. Police also brought the man’s mother from Chaiyaphum province to Korat in hopes that she could persuade him to surrender.
The army commander, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, was also on the scene.
Around 8.30pm, it was reported that special forces troops were preparing to “engage” the shooter inside the shopping centre. But the immediate focus was on safely evacuating the hundreds of shoppers and workers who were still trapped inside.
Police said around 11.30pm that they had taken control of floors G, 1, 2 and 3 in the mall.
Troops from a special warfare unit were dispatched
The army asked media outlets to stop providing live coverage in order to avoid giving the suspect information about official activities. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission also warned that smartphone videos being streamed by people inside the mall were a potential threat to security operations.
The attacker streamed his earlier activity at the mall on Facebook Live and posted a selfie showing him holding a rifle. “Tired, I can barely move my fingers,” he said on a video posted at 7.20pm.
The Facebook page was taken offline a few moments later. Facebook later confirmed that it had removed the account and would also take down “any other violating content related to this attack”.
“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 soldier said “Nobody can avoid death”
Other text messages posted before the page was taken down included “Should I surrender?” and “Oh shit, I’ve got cramps in my hand.” An earlier post said, “Nobody can avoid death”, and another one read, “Being rich from taking advantage of others, do they think they can use money in hell?”
Lt Gen Thanya Kriatisarn, commander of the Second Army Region, identified the suspect as Sgt Maj Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, of the Surathampithak camp.
The slain commander has been identified as Col Anantharot Krasae, 48, with whom the gunman was reported to have had a conflict. A 63-year-old woman was also killed at the camp, along with another soldier.
A video clip posted on Twitter by @Hook31_Thailand shows the soldier shooting randomly before entering the Terminal 21 mall in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima late Saturday afternoon.
Source: Bangkok Post