Dozens of nursery children ‘massacred as they slept’ by ex-cop sacked for drugs
More than 30 people, most of them toddlers, have been killed in a gun and knife attack on a pre-school in northeast Thailand.
The attacker is thought to have killed himself, as well as his wife and child, after earlier reports suggested he was still at large following the attack targeting kids as young as two.
Officials say the gunman was an ex-officer previously sacked for taking drugs and believe at least 22 children are among the roughly 34 victims.
Two teachers and a police officer are also thought to have been killed in Nong Bua Lam Phu province, after the man stormed the nursery earlier.
Police colonel Jakkapat Vijitraithaya, from the area where the attack happened, identified the gunman as Panya Khamrab, a police lieutenant colonel he said was dismissed from the force last year for drug use.
Jakkapat suggested there were 23 children among the dead, aged two to three years old. The Thai Prime Minister has since put the number of infants at 22.
According to Thai media reports, the gunman also used knives in the attack and then fled the building.
The Daily News newspaper reported that after fleeing the scene of the attack, the assailant returned to his home and killed himself along with his family.
Pictures shows blankets covering bodies inside the venue, not far from the border with Laos, and armed police on the scene.
Other horrific images show scores of bloodied children lying dead inside the pre-school.
The shots, which are too gruesome to publish appear to suggest that many of the children could have been taking a nap at the time that they were gunned down.
Police Major General Achayon Kraithong said the gunman opened fire early in the afternoon in the center in the town of Nongbua Lamphu.
The death toll was being revised up in the minutes and hours after the attack.
A spokesperson for a regional public affairs office said earlier that 23 children, two teachers and one police officer were among the dead.
The prime minister had alerted all agencies to take action and apprehend the culprit, a government spokesperson said earlier, before reports emerged that the attacker had killed himself.
Later PM Prayuth Chan-ocha branded the incident shocking and sent condolences to the victims’ families.
On his Facebook page, Prayuth ordered all agencies to urgently treat the wounded.
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 the 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.
The mass killing comes less than a month after a serving army officer shot dead two colleagues at a military training base in the capital Bangkok.