Saturday, 8 February 2020

Breaking:Manhunt Ongoing For Soldier That Killed 20 In Shopping Mall

Police believe gunman, named as Jakrapanth Thomma, is still inside shopping centre in Nakhon Ratchasima

Thai police and soldiers have stormed a shopping mall where a gunman is believed to be hiding after a mass shooting in the north-eastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, which has killed 20 people and left many injured.

Police believe the shooter, a soldier who stole guns from a military base on Saturday afternoon before livestreaming a mass shooting, is still inside a large shopping centre in the city. Officers have not confirmed reports that up to 20 people have been taken hostage inside the mall, Terminal 21, but advised anyone trapped to mute their phone and try to hide.

Thailand’s crime suppression division said the first floor of the mall has now been secured and that people could send private messages sharing information such as their location and how many people are hiding with them.

Firefighters are also attending the scene after the soldier apparently shot at a gas canister.

The shooting began late on Saturday afternoon, when the soldier attacked his commanding officer before stealing a gun, ammunition and an army vehicle from a military camp. He then proceeded to open fire at several locations across the city, which is more than 250km (155 miles) from Bangkok and is also known as Korat.

The soldier shot at people at a Buddhist temple as well as Terminal 21, according to local media. Footage apparently taken inside the shopping malls showed people running from stalls to take cover. In videos taken outside the centre, repeated gunfire can be heard in the background, while others show injured bodies lying on the pavement.

The Terminal 21 mall has since been sealed off by police, who said the gunman remained close to the shopping centre and had not yet been apprehended. Members of the public had been urged to remain at home.

The police have named the suspect as Jakrapanth Thomma.

A woman interviewed by Thailand’s Channel One television said she heard gunshots while she was at the mall and hid in a clothing store with other people before escaping.

Thai police released this wanted poster of the mass shooting suspect. Photograph: AP

The defence ministry spokesman, Kongcheep Tantrawanit, told Reuters news agency: “We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad.”

Thai state broadcaster MCOT interviewed a man who gave his name as Mr Green and is trapped inside the shopping centre. He said the gunman, who was dressed in a soldier’s uniform, parked his vehicle in front of the mall and fired bullets before entering the building.

“He is now holding about 20 people hostage,” Green said, adding that the man had multiple weapons and was heavily armed. “I can’t run away because I don’t know where the shooter is. I am here with about 20 people. I saw some people running earlier. They ran for their lives and didn’t care about their shops.”

The death toll remains unclear although police told Agence France-Presse three people were killed, among them at least one soldier, when the suspect opened fire at the army base. “He stole an army vehicle and drove into the town centre,” said police Lt Col Mongkol Kuptasiri.

Authorities have asked for blood donations and put hospitals on alert. Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s health minister, said a doctor who had been shot at while treating another victim was among the injured.

Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world but such attacks are rare in the country, other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.

The suspect had posted on his Facebook page earlier in the day that: “Death is inevitable for everyone.”

Faceboook said the page has since been taken down, adding in a statement: “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.”

Source :The Observer Thailand/The Guardian London

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