At least 34 people including children have been killed in a mass shooting and stabbing incident after a former police officer opened fire at a pre-school child daycare centre in a northeastern province of Thailand, with media reporting the gunman later shot and killed himself. The victims included 22 children as well as adults, police said in a statement. A local police official said the victims of the shooting included children as young as 2 years old.
As per a Reuters report, the former policeman killed his wife and child before turning his weapon on himself, police said.
Earlier, police said a manhunt was underway for the shooter after the attack in Nong Bua Lamphu, in the north-east of the country. Meanwhile, a government spokesman said the prime minister had alerted all agencies to to take action and apprehend the culprit. A motive for the attack is unclear.
Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya, superintendent of Na Klang police station, also told Thai Rath TV that the gunman had been discharged from the police force last year for drug-related reasons.
About 30 children were at the center when the gunman arrived, fewer than usual, as heavy rain had kept many people away, district official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working in a nearby office at the time, told Reuters.
“The shooter came in around lunch time and shot four or five officials at the childcare center first,” said Jidapa, adding that among them was a teacher who was eight months pregnant.
“At first people thought it was fireworks,” she said.
The gunman then forced his way into a locked room where children were sleeping, Jidapa said, to kill children there with a knife.
Videos posted on social media showed sheets covering what appeared to be the bodies of children lying in pools of blood at the center in the town of Uthai Sawan, 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok in the province of Nong Bua Lamphu.
The rate of gun ownership in Thailand is high compared with some other countries in the region but official figures do not include huge numbers of illegal weapons, many of which have been brought in across porous borders over the years from strife-torn neighbours.
Mass shootings are rare but in 2020, a soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.
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