Ex-policeman killed at least 37 people, most of them are children in Thailand

Ex-policeman killed at least 37 people, most of them are children in Thailand

A former policeman has killed at least 37 people, most of them are children, in a gun and knife attack at a childcare centre in north-east Thailand.

Police say he then killed himself and his family after a manhunt following the attack in Nong Bua Lamphu province.

Children and adults are among the casualties at the nursery - police say the attacker shot and stabbed his victims before fleeing the scene.

The former officer, aged 34, was sacked in June for drug use, police said.

A teacher who survived told Thailand's Thairath TV that the attacker used to drop off his child at the nursery and had seemed polite. A motive remains unclear.

At least 22 children were among the dead in the mass killing in the town of Utthai Sawan. Some victims aged as young as two were attacked as they slept. A dozen people who were injured have been taken to Nong Bua Lamphu district hospital.

"The shooter came in around lunchtime and shot four or five officials at the childcare centre first," a local official, Jidapa Boonsom, who was working nearby, told Reuters news agency. One of them was a teacher who was eight months pregnant.

"At first people thought it was fireworks," she said, adding that the man then forced entry to a locked room where children were sleeping.

Videos shared on social media appear to show the tears and distress of parents and relatives of those killed, as they gathered at a shelter outside the centre.

Police officers arriving after the attack were confronted with horrific scenes, the bodies of adults and children, some of them very young, lying inside and outside the building.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha described the incident as "a shocking event".

Police named the attacker as Panya Kamrab, a local man who had been a police lieutenant colonel before he was dismissed last year for drug use. He is understood to have appeared in court on Thursday on charges related to the use and possible sale of methamphetamine. The verdict was scheduled to be delivered on Friday.

Armed with a shotgun, a pistol and a knife, he stormed the nursery at about 12:30 local time (05:30 GMT).

The details of what followed are still emerging, but after the killing spree the attacker fled the scene in a white four-door Toyota pick-up truck with Bangkok registration plates, according to police, who launched a search for him and warned locals to keep indoors for their own safety.

Eyewitnesses were quoted saying the attacker had driven into bystanders and opened fire at some of them, injuring several people as he made his escape.

Police say Kamrab returned home, killing his wife and son before taking his own life.

Mass shootings in Thailand are rare, although gun ownership rates are relatively high for the region. Illegal weapons are also common in the south-east Asian country, according to the Reuters news agency.

The nursery attack comes less than a month after an army officer shot dead two of his colleagues at a base in Bangkok.

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