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Dozens of people were evacuated from the Thai mall after an armed man killed 20 in mass shootings


BANGKOK: Dozens of terrified shoppers were evacuated from a Thai mall early Sunday when armed police said they had “taken control” of the ground floor of the complex of an armed man who killed at least 20 people.
But the authorities did not give firm details about the whereabouts of the attacker, an army noncommissioned officer named Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma.
There were fears that the shooter could try to hide in the crowd in panic.
Police in the Crime Suppression Division urged fleeing buyers to “raise their hands” and identify themselves on the ground floor “and authorities will evacuate.”
Earlier, Jakrapanth broadcast his firing spree through Facebook posts that recorded the attack from an army barracks to the mall where an unknown number of shoppers remained trapped.
Hospitals across the country prepared for a bleak night ahead.
“There are about 20 dead,” said Kongcheep Tantravanich, a spokesman for the defense ministry.
“Police, military commandos and sharp shooters surround Terminal 21,” he said.
The Thai Minister of Health told reporters that about 10 people were already in the hospital in a “serious condition.”
The bloodshed began on Saturday afternoon when Jakrapanth shot three people, including at least one soldier, at a nearby army barracks.
“He stole an army vehicle and drove downtown,” said Lt. Col. of Police Mongkol Kuptasiri.
There, the armed man used stolen weapons from the army arsenal to bring the carnage to the city center, entering Terminal 21 shopping center.
“He used a machine gun and shot innocent victims that resulted in many injured and dead,” said police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen.
Jakrapanth’s motive remains unclear.
But throughout the day he posted images of himself and wrote several posts on his Facebook page as the attack developed, including “should I give up?” and “nobody can escape death.”
In a Facebook video, since it was removed, the assailant can be heard, wearing a military helmet, filmed from an open jeep, saying: “I am tired … I can no longer pull my finger” and making a trigger symbol with his hand.
There were also pictures of a man with a ski mask holding a gun.
A Facebook spokesman said “we have removed the gunman accounts from our services and will work 24 hours to eliminate any infringing content related to this attack as soon as we realize.”
A witness who was inside the mall before the attack told AFP that the mall was full of shoppers on a long weekend.
“There were a lot of people in the mall today,” said a 32-year-old man from the city, asking for anonymity.
“I was quite surprised when I found out because I left the mall not long before.”
The street lights below the mall went out when the army and police units sealed the Terminal 21 shopping center.
The city, better known as Korat, is home to one of Thailand’s largest barracks in a country where the military is entangled in politics and society.
Thailand has one of the highest gun possession rates in the world.
Several shootings in court at the end of last year renewed concern over armed violence in the country of Southeast Asia.
In another high-profile case, a two-year-old boy was among the three people killed in Thailand when a masked gunman stole a jewelry store last month.
At the end of last year, a lawyer shot and killed two lawyers in a court in the east of the country during a land dispute hearing.

Times of India