Authorities in northern Thailand began releasing bodies to relatives Monday after security forces cornered and killed a soldier who carried out the country’s worst mass shooting in an hourslong siege at a shopping mall.
The soldier killed 29 people starting with his commanding officer in a stunning tragedy that began Saturday and ended Sunday morning when security forces shot dead the heavily armed attacker in Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The gunman, Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, 31, was infuriated at a land deal brokered by his commander’s mother-in-law, as far as authorities have been able to determine. She was another of his victims.
The death toll surpassed Thailand’s last major attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok killing 20 people that was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.
Messages of sympathy for the latest tragedy were sent by several countries.
The U.S. Embassy said it “stands with the people of Thailand, saddened by tragic events in Nakhon Ratchasima.”
More than 1,000 people mourned the victims Sunday night in a vigil led by Buddhist monks at the city’s town square. They lit candles and chanted.
“We are here today to pray in order to send the souls of those who die to heaven, and we ask the spirits to accept those souls. So those souls can be holy, be in heaven with goodness and beauty,” said artist Suwanee Natewong.
Many of the 58 wounded are still in bad condition. The Public Health Ministry sent a mental health crisis team to help relatives of the deceased cope with their losses.
Survivors and victims’ families at the city’s hospitals recounted their ordeals.
Cpl. Korakot Ampanngeun said he had been ordered to block a road so no one could go toward the gunman.
“So I was signaling to oncoming traffic, when I turned around and saw him. If I had not, I would not have survived,” he recalled. “I tried to run and find somewhere to hide. But I could only take two steps and then I heard the sound — ‘bang.’ My leg just went and I couldn’t walk. A good Samaritan helped carry me away.”