Thai soldier kills at least 17 in mass shooting

The attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima began late in the afternoon at an army barracks, police told AFP.

FILE: This screenshot made on 8 February 2020 from the Facebook page of Jakrapanth Thomma, a Thai soldier wanted in connection to a deadly attack in the north-eastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima, shows him holding a gun at an unknown location. Picture: AFP.

BANGKOK - A Thai soldier gunned down at least 17 people in an attack which he shared on Facebook, emergency services said Saturday, in an ongoing mass shooting which focused on a town centre mall.

The attack in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima began late in the afternoon at an army barracks, police told AFP.

Three people were killed - among them at least one soldier - when Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma opened fire.

"He stole an army vehicle and drove into the town centre," police Lieutenant-Colonel Mongkol Kuptasiri.

Local media reported the gunman seized weapons from the army arsenal before embarking on a shooting spree in the centre of the town.

In a fast-moving incident, authorities could not confirm local media reports the gunman had taken up to 16 hostages.

There were "17 deaths, 14 wounded" late Saturday, said an unnamed spokesperson from Bangkok's Erawan Center - the dispatch centre for emergency services across the country.

Video and photos circulating online relayed panicked scenes on a main road in the city - which is better known as Korat.

People fled while at least one fire roared as what appeared to be the sound of automatic gunfire filled the air.

The gunman also posted photos of himself and wrote several posts on his Facebook page including "should I surrender" and "no one can escape death".

In one Facebook video - since deleted - the assailant, wearing an army helmet, filmed from an open jeep saying, "I'm tired... I can't pull my finger anymore" and making a trigger symbol with his hand.

There were also photos of a man in a ski mask holding up a pistol.

"The gunman used a machine gun and shot innocent victims resulting in many injured and dead," spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen told AFP, adding that the standing toll was "more than 10."

The defence ministry said forces have sealed off the Terminal 21 shopping centre but have yet to capture the suspect.

Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world but mass shootings by soldiers targeting civilians are rare.

Several shootings at courthouses late last year also renewed concern about gun violence in the Southeast Asia country.

In one high-profile case, a two-year-old boy was among three people killed in Thailand when a masked gunman robbed a jewellery shop last month.

Late last year two lawyers were shot dead by a clerk at a court in the east of the country during a hearing over a land dispute.