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Thai mall gunman shot dead after killing 26

Thai mall

Bangkok, Feb 9 (UITV/IANS)- A soldier who killed 26 people in a shooting spree at a shopping mall in Thailand's Nakhon Ratchasima was shot dead by police on Sunday, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said.

The gunman, Sgt. Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, who also injured 57 others in the incident on Saturday at the Terminal 21 shopping mall, was killed after an overnight stand-off with the police, Efe news quoted Prayuth as saying at a press conference.

"An event like this has never occurred in Thailand, and we hope it never does again," he said after visiting the injured in hospital.

While it was initially believed the dead included two police officers, Prayuth said only one had been killed, adding that eight of the injured were undergoing surgery and that 25 had been discharged.

At a Sunday morning press conference, regional commander Lt. Gen. Thanya Kiatsan said nine of the injured were in serious condition. He said among the injured are three police commandos, but didn't elaborate on their status.

Jakrapanth had holed himself up at Foodland Supermarket on the ground floor - which only has one access point - of the sprawling multi-storey mall, according to Thanya.

The shooting began on Saturday afternoon at an army base in the province, where Jakrapanth shot his commanding officer Col. Anantharot Krasae and other army personnel before fleeing in what local media outlets said was a stolen Humvee.

The outlets said a 63-year-old woman, Col Anantharot's mother-in-law, and another soldier were also killed there.

The shooter then opened fire at a temple in town before arriving at the shopping centre, where he continued his rampage.

Footage circulated on social media shows people fleeing the scene and a raging fire, which allegedly ignited when the soldier shot at a gas canister.

Another video, thought to be from inside the shopping center, shows a tense exchange between an unidentified man crouched behind an escalator and the shooter.

"Come out and let's fight face to face," the man says.

"No, you come out," Jakrapanth replies, before firing a round of shots.

More footage taken from inside the building shows the moment officers retaliate with heavy fire and the massacre's aftermath, as police go past Jakrapanth's body and into a walk-in freezer, where they find an additional victim thought to have been one of two hostages the shooter held.

The second victim is found nearby the dead soldier.

Jakrapanth streamed the incident on Facebook Live during the massacre and published messaged asking whether he should surrender to his personal profile.

"Oh shit, I have got cramps in my hand," he wrote, as well as captioning a photo of his ammunition "death is inevitable" before his profile was taken down.

Thanya said the shooter had taken an HK33 assault rifle, several rounds of ammunition. Army sources said the shooter also made off with grenades. He added that 300 military personnel had been deployed to the area following the incident.

Thailand, with an estimated 10 million registered and unregistered firearms in circulation, has roughly 15 guns for every 100 people - one of the highest ratios in the world, according to monitoring organization Gun Policy.