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Suspect in killing of 26 people in Thailand shot dead

By
Allen Cone
Thai forensic police officers inspect car of a shooting victim at the scene of a mass shooting outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Sunday. Photo by Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE
Thai forensic police officers inspect car of a shooting victim at the scene of a mass shooting outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, on Sunday. Photo by Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- A soldier who killed 26 people and wounded 57 in a gun rampage near Bangkok, Thailand, was shot dead by security forces 16 hours after the attack began, police said Sunday.

Jakraphanth Thomma, 32, was killed after being all night in a shopping center in Nakhon Ratchasima, police said at a news conference.

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It was the worst mass shooting in Thailand.

"It is unprecedented in Thailand, and I want this to be the last time this crisis happens," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said after visiting the wounded at a hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat.

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The prime minister said the death toll was raised from an earlier reported 20.

Chan-ocha said the suspect had a grudge with another soldier over a land-selling commission fee.

He killed his commanding officer, identified as Col Anantharot Krasae by the Bangkok Post of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion before stealing weapons from a military camp, police said. He continued his attack on the streets and at Terminal 21 shopping center.

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It began at about 3:30 p.m. local time Saturday at the Suatham Phithak military camp.

Shortly after 3 a.m. local time, gunfire was heard as the security forces raided the building.

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About 6 1/2 hours later, police confirmed that the gunman had been shot dead.

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The gunman reportedly had tried to escape in the back of the building.

While he was holed up in the building, the suspect's mother was also brought in from from his hometown in Chaiyaphum Province to try to persuade him to give himself up, Maj. Gen. Jirapob Puridet, who led the security team inside the building, told the media.

The mother, whose name was withheld, told him he had depression and an extremely bad temper, and there was little point in talking to her son.

"We had to make the move of confronting him because people who were trapped inside a freezing room sent messages to us that the oxygen level was very low and they are suffocating," Puridet said. "So we had to risk to confront him face to face otherwise people who were trapped inside would die."

One officer died and three others were injured during the confrontation, Puridet said.

"It was almost like a Hollywood action movie shooting scene," he said. "At certain points the gun firing was nonstop."

Charlie Crowson, a teacher of English who lives in Nakhon Ratchasima, told the BBC one of his girlfriend's former students was among those killed. He said there were "bodies on the street."

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The family of 13-year-old Ratchanon Karnchanamethee sobbed as they identified his body at a morgue.

"He's my only son. He hasn't even had dinner," said his father, Natthawut Karnchanamethee, said in a CNN report. "I allowed him to do anything he wanted to. I never set expectations for him. I only wanted him to be a good person."

During the ordeal, he posted on his social media accounts, including on Facebook which has taken down the page.

He had posted an image of a pistol with three sets of bullets, along with the words "it is time to get excited" and "nobody can avoid death".

In one post on Facebook, he asked whether he should surrender.

Army chief Apirat Kongsompong announced changes to armament for soldiers on base guard duties, banning them from carrying machine guns and ammunition. In addition, they must remove bolts from their firearms and hand them over to commanding officers.

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