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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A Thai soldier has reportedly been killed after a shooting spree that left at least 21 people dead and 14 wounded.
The soldier, identified as Jakrapanth Thomma, attacked the Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, capital of the north-eastern province of the same name.
The soldier is said to have killed three people at his military camp in Nakhon Ratchasima province, also known as Korat.
According to the Bangkok Post, the people killed at the base were his commander, another soldier and a 63-year-old woman.
He then stole a Humvee and weapons and drove to the city, shooting at civilians along the way.
"The perpetrator is still in the basement and it doesn't look as though he has hostages. We are getting close to him," an officer told Reuters.
Armed police said they had "taken control" of the ground floor of the complex.
The Crime Suppression Division of the Thai police urged fleeing people to "raise their hands" and identify themselves amid apparent fears the shooter could try to hide in the panicked crowds.
Troops from a special warfare unit and police commandos had been sent to the mall, the Bangkok Post reported, while the man's mother was being brought from Chaiyaphum province in the hopes that she could convince him to surrender.
He fired shots outside the Terminal 21 mall and continued firing inside.
"The gunman used a machinegun and shot innocent victims resulting in many injured and dead," a police representative said.
A Defence Ministry spokesman said the death toll was 20 but did not give a figure for the wounded.
"We are doing our best. You can see that all our senior officers of the government have been assigned here," Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters at the scene. "All steps are being taken with precautions so that we can minimise the damage as much as we can."
The newspaper quoted an official from the Erawan Centre, the nationwide emergency services dispatch centre, as saying there were 14 people wounded.
Video footage posted on social media showed people fleeing in panic after the man opened fire outside the mall at around 6pm.
The attacker then fired at a cooking gas cylinder, setting off an explosion and fire, before he shot at shoppers inside the mall. He was reported to be holding the hostages on the fourth floor.
The size of the mall could pose a challenge for security forces as they try to capture the gunman.
It consists of seven main retail floors, including one below ground level, and scores of shops and restaurants. It also houses a movie theatre on the top floor.
Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich, who identified the suspect, said police and military units had locked down the mall and the surrounding area.
The motives for the shooting spree were not clear.
Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world but mass shootings are rare.
However, a robbery at a gold shop last month in which three people were shot dead and four wounded, as well as several shootings at courthouses late last year, have sparked concerns about gun violence in the country.
In one high-profile case, two lawyers were shot dead by a clerk at a court in eastern Thailand during a hearing over a land dispute.
Updated: February 9, 2020 06:39 AM
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