Scores of stunned and terrified shoppers fled the shopping centre (Photo Credit: Facebook: Jakrapanth Thomma)
The Thai soldier who killed at least 26 people and holed up in a mall overnight was "shot dead" on Sunday morning, police said, ending a near-24-hour ordeal which has stunned the country. He was killed at around 0200 GMT (7.30 AM IST), chief of the Crime Suppression Division Jirabhob Bhuridej told AFP. The health minister and police chief also confirmed the gunman's death. The soldier was killed at the shopping mall where he was holed up in the north-eastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima - also known as Korat.
"The police have killed the perpetrator and rescued eight hostages. Some were wounded," The Guardian reported quoting one of the security sources.
Earlier, police said they had "taken control" of the ground floor of the complex. Volleys of gunfire rang out before dawn, hours after Thai security services stormed the ground floor of the Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima - where the gunman - identified as Sergeant-Major Jakrapanth Thomma - held out, armed with assault weapons stolen from his barracks.
Scores of stunned and terrified shoppers fled the shopping centre as police entered the mall, escaping a bloody rampage that the gunman relayed via Facebook posts. The Facebook posts charted the attack from army barracks in the city to the mall.
The bloodshed began Saturday afternoon when Jakrapanth shot three people among them at least one soldier - at a senior officer's house and then at nearby army barracks, before driving an army vehicle to the town centre. There the gunman used weapons stolen from the military arsenal to bring carnage to a town centre.
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 unfolded, 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.
A Facebook spokesperson said "we have removed the gunman's accounts from our services and will work around the clock to remove any violating content related to this attack as soon as we become aware of it".
The city is home to one of Thailand's largest barracks in a country where the military is enmeshed in politics and society. Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. Several shootings at courthouses late last year renewed concern about gun violence in the southeast Asian country.