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Night of terror in packed mall: How the Thai mall massacre unfolded

Terrifying details of how a luxury Thai mall crowded with shoppers on a holiday weekend turned into a scene of carnage are coming to light as police work to end a siege that killed 20.

The Thailand mall massacre by a “mad Major” gunman who slaughtered innocent shoppers and wounded more than 31 happened at one of the country’s most popular, high-end retail centres.

The shooting rampage began when Sergeant Major Jakkrapanth Thomma opened fire with a machine gun at the Terminal 21 shopping mall in the northeastern Thai city of Korat.

Also known as Nakhon Ratchaisma, Korat is more than three hours’ drive from Bangkok.

Five Kiwis are registered as being in the city but there is no indication any have been caught up in the shooting.

MFat says 302 New Zealanders are in Thailand overall.

Terminal 21, where the shooting took place, is a multi-level glass and steel mall designed to resemble an airport terminal, complete with departure gates and a large model passenger jet suspended above the escalators.

A “control tower” at the top gives spectacular views over the city.

The centre is popular with tourists as well as Thais, with an acclaimed indoor playground and laser tag arena for children.

Thomma chose to go on his rampage when the mall was packed with shoppers on the Saturday evening of the Makha Bucha long weekend, an important Buddhist holiday in Thailand.

Each of Terminal 21’s seven retail floors represents a different country, with a giant replica of the Paris Eiffel Tower, a model of London’s Big Ben and a massive replica Golden Gate bridge.

Night of terror in packed mall: How the Thai mall massacre unfolded

Some shooting was in the mall’s 24-hour food court and supermarket, which are dwarfed by a two-storey golden Oscar statue.

The carnage happened after Thomma had an argument at the Surathampithak military base, where he was stationed, outside Korat on Saturday afternoon.

The 32-year-old soldier had quarrelled over a land deal and shot three people including another soldier, Colonel Anantharot Krasae, and the colonel’s 62-year-old mother.

Then Thomma “went mad”, stole a machine gun and other weapons from the arsenal at the military base and a Humvee and drove into town, arriving at the shopping mall around 6pm.

Armed with the machine gun and reportedly also carrying grenades, Thomma got out of the vehicle and opened fire.

Terrified shoppers tried to hide or flee, but Thomma killed several and then moved into the mall’s food court where he shot a gas cylinder, which exploded into a ball of flame.

At one point, Thomma filmed himself in an army helmet making a gun with his hand and saying, “I’m tired. I can’t pull my finger anymore.”

He also took selfies, which he posted on Facebook with the words in Thai, “should I surrender” and “no one can escape death”.

Thomma reportedly took 16 people hostage and moved the shopping mall’s fourth floor.

Armed police stormed in to help rescue more than 100 terrified shoppers as Thomma remained in the mall.

“Hanuman” police commandos moved down to the ground floor as officers fanned out to search for the gunman.

Two casualties were brought out of the mall early on Sunday.

About 1 am the siege appeared to be drawing to a close and Thailand’s deputy police commissioner Suchart Thirasawat, deputy PM Anutin Charnvirakul, and other senior officials could be seen entering the mall.

Traumatised shoppers emerged from the mall to embrace anxious relatives waiting outside to see if their loved ones had survived the rampage.

It is not yet clear if Thai commandos shot and killed Thomma.

The number of casualties was last reported as being about 20 dead and 31 injured.

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