Bangkok: Thai security forces killed a soldier on Sunday after performing a killing spree that left at least 21 people dead, police and military sources said. They said he was killed in the mall where he was detained in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
"The police killed the perpetrator and rescued eight hostages. Some were wounded," said one of the security sources.
Both refused to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The murders started around 3:00 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Saturday when the soldier opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then to the shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand.
The officer said nine civilians had been evacuated from the mall and the security forces checked to see if there were any left. "The perpetrator is still in the basement and it doesn't look like he's hostage. We are approaching him," said the official, who did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The police have identified the alleged shooter as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma.
One member of the security forces was killed overnight and at least two others were wounded in an attack on the Terminal 21 shopping center in an attempt to stop the shooter.
"We are doing our best. You can see that all of our senior government officials have been deployed here," Anutin Charnvirakul, Minister of Public Health, told local reporters. "All steps are taken with precautionary measures so that we can keep the damage as low as possible."
More than 30 people were injured.
The police closed the streets around the mall and kept the journalists behind a security chain.
Thai media reported that the alleged gunman worked at a military base near Nakhon Ratchasima, which is approximately 250 km from the capital, Bangkok. Before the attack, Jakrapanth had posted on his Facebook account that he wanted to take revenge – but he didn't say what for.
"We don't know why he did it. Apparently he's gone mad," Defense Department spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Reuters. Overnight, soldiers and police stormed the mall and took hundreds of prisoners to safety.
The mall was busy with buyers over a long weekend for the Makha Bucha Buddhist holiday. CCTV footage from the mall, which was released on social media, showed the black-clad and masked shooter who had his gun slung over his shoulder and had no trace of anyone else nearby. Facebook said it removed the suspect's account.
Large-scale shootings are rare in the Southeast Asian country, except in the far south, where a decades-long uprising continues. Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the largest cities in northeastern Thailand, an island of relative prosperity in a rice growing region that is one of the poorest parts of the country with 69 million inhabitants.