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Thai soldier shot dead after killing 27 in gun rampage

The gunman was killed after an overnight siege in a shopping mall, having also wounded 57 others in the shooting spree.

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Medics carry a stretcher towards a Thai shopping mall on Sunday where a gunman was shot dead by police after killing 27 people on Saturday afternoon (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Medics carry a stretcher towards a Thai shopping mall on Sunday where a gunman was shot dead by police after killing 27 people on Saturday afternoon (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Medics carry a stretcher towards a Thai shopping mall on Sunday where a gunman was shot dead by police after killing 27 people on Saturday afternoon (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Thai police on Sunday shot dead a soldier who killed 27 people and wounded 57 in the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed the numbers of victims after the overnight siege was ended by police on Sunday morning, 16 hours after it began, at a shopping mall in the north-western city of Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat.

Officials said the man – identified by military officials as Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma – was angry over a financial dispute.

He first killed two people, a fellow soldier and a woman, then went on a far bloodier spree, shooting as he drove to the mall where shoppers fled in terror.

The man also 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.

Thailand Shooting
A group of armed commando soldiers outside Terminal 21 Korat mall, in Nakhon Ratchasima (Sakchai Lalitkanjanakul/AP)

Jakrapanth appeared to be armed with an assault rifle, based on security camera video aired on Thai Rath television.

The shooting spree began at about 3:30pm local time on Saturday. Video taken outside the mall showed people diving for cover as shots rang out.

Many were killed outside the mall, some in cars, others while walking.

City and neighbourhood police officers said Jakrapanth took a gun from his base and drove to the Terminal 21 Korat mall, shooting along the way.

Several Thai media reported he travelled in a military vehicle.

Thailand Shooting
A wanted poster released by Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police (Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police via AP)

Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunfire.

“First I saw a woman run out from the mall hysterically,” said Nattaya, who shot video of the scene on her phone. “Then a motorcycle rider in front of her just ran and left his motorcycle there.”

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while they searched for the gunman.

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 two-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewellery store.

PA