Thailand massacre: Ex-cop kills 24 children in knife and gun rampage

  • The total death toll, including the shooter, is 37 according to police
  • Attacker kills 24 children and 13 adults in rampage
  • The Thai daycare was for children aged 2 to 5
  • Most child victims were stabbed – police
  • The perpetrator killed his wife, child and committed suicide

NA KLANG, Thailand, Oct 6 (Reuters) – A former police officer killed 34 people, including 23 children, in a knife and gun attack at a day care center in northeast Thailand on Thursday, a announced the police, before later shooting dead his wife and child in his home and turning the gun on himself.

In one of the worst in the world number of child deaths in a massacre by a single killer in recent history, most of the children who died at the daycare center in Uthai Sawan, a town 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok, were stabbed to death , police said.

The age range of children at the daycare ranged from two to five years old, a local official told Reuters.

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Police identified the assailant as a former member of the force who was removed from his post last year over drug allegations and he was facing trial on drug trafficking charges.

The man had appeared in court earlier in the day and then went to the daycare center to pick up his child, police spokesman Paisal Luesomboon told ThaiPBS television.

When he didn’t find his child there, he started the killing, Paisal said. “He started shooting, slashing and killing children at Uthai Sawan daycare,” Paisal said.

“It’s a scene no one wants to see. From the first step when I walked in, it was heartbreaking,” Piyalak Kingkaew, an experienced rescuer leading the first responder team, told Reuters.

“We’ve been through this before, but this incident is the most heartbreaking because they are small children.”

A large van which police say contained the bodies of 22 people, mostly children, was seen by Reuters departing from a police station heading for the town of Udon Thani, 80 km (50 km) away. miles), where autopsies would be performed.

“I begged him for mercy”

A Reuters photographer also saw the body of the shooter, Panya Khamrapm, being moved in a body bag from a van to a police station in the province on Thursday evening.

Photographs taken at the nursery by the rescue team and shared with Reuters showed the tiny bodies of those killed lying on blankets. Abandoned juice boxes were strewn across the floor.

“He was walking towards me and I begged him for mercy, I didn’t know what to do,” a distraught woman told ThaiPBS, fighting back tears.

“He didn’t say anything, he shot at the door while the children were sleeping,” said another woman, distraught.

Police say the attacker’s weapon was a 9mm pistol and was obtained legally.

The Thai police chief said the attacker attempted to break into the premises and mainly used a knife in the killings.

“Then he got out and started killing everyone he met on the way with a gun or a knife until he got home. We surrounded his house and then found out he was committed suicide at home,” Damrongsak Kittiprapas told reporters.

He said a few children survived, without giving details.

About 30 children were at the facility – a pink one-story building surrounded by a lawn and small palm trees – when the attacker arrived, fewer than usual as heavy rains had driven many away. people, said district official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working in a nearby office at the time.

“The shooter arrived around lunchtime and shot four or five daycare officials first,” Jidapa told Reuters.

The attacker forced his way into a locked room where the children were sleeping, Jidapa said. An eight-month-pregnant teacher was also among those stabbed to death, she said.

The massacre is among the worst involving children killed by a single person. Anders Breivik killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, while the death toll in other cases includes 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut in 2012 , 16 at Dunblane, Scotland in 1996 and 19 at a school in Uvalde, Texas this year.

The Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia in 2004 saw 186 children killed by a group of hostage takers.

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Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha was due to visit the region on Friday. In a statement on Facebook, he called Thursday’s rampage a “shocking incident”.

Prayuth on Friday ordered all government departments to fly the national flag at half-mast to mark a tragedy that “has caused grief to the whole nation”, his spokesman Anusha Burapchaisri said.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida will visit families of the victims in Udon Thani on Friday, according to a local announcement.

The government said it would provide financial assistance to families to help cover funeral costs and medical care.

The White House and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres both expressed shock at the attack and sent condolences to the families of the victims.

Gun laws are strict in Thailand, where possession of an illegal firearm is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But ownership is high compared to some other Southeast Asian countries. Illegal weapons, many from conflict-torn neighboring countries, are commonplace.

Mass shootings in Thailand remain rare, although in 2020 a soldier angry over a real estate deal gone wrong killed at least 29 people and injured 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.

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Additional reporting by Poppy McPherson and Jiraporn Kuhakan in Na Klang, Orathai Sriring, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Chayut Setboonsarng and Juarwee Kittisilpa in Bangkok; Written by Kanupriya Kapoor, Robert Birsel and Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Kim Coghill, Clarence Fernandez, Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones

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