NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand, Feb 9 (Reuters) - A member of the Thai security forces was killed early on Sunday in a raid into a shopping mall to try to stop a soldier on a shooting rampage, bringing the total death toll to 21, the health minister said.
Two other members of the forces were wounded during the raid, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters as further explosions and shooting echoed from the Terminal 21 mall in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima.
Reuters video images showed one casualty being wheeled out to an ambulance. Another staggered from the building barechested as he was helped onto a stretcher.
The shooting spree began on Saturday afternoon when the soldier opened fire at a house before moving to an army base and then the shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Bangkok, police said.
“We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad,” Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Reuters.
Thai security forces stormed the mall late on Saturday to rescue hundreds of people trapped there. It was unclear how many shoppers and workers remained inside, Kongcheep said.
Police identified the suspect as Jakrapanth Thomma. During the attack he posted “Death is inevitable for everyone” on his Facebook page and later asked “Should I give up?”
Facebook said it had removed the suspect’s account.
“There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.
Major shootings are rare in the Southeast Asian country other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.
Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the biggest cities in northeastern Thailand, an island of relative prosperity in a rice growing area that is one of the poorest parts of the country of 69 million people. (Additional reporting by Athit Perawongmetha and Jiraporn Kuhakan in Nakhon Ratchasima, Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Juarawee Kittisilpa in Bangkok; Writing by Kay Johnson and Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Daniel Wallis)