Police in Thailand say a former police officer attacked a childcare center in the northeastern Nongbua Lamphu province Thursday, killing at least 37 people including 22 children in one of the worst attacks in the nation’s history and one of the world’s worst involving children.
Authorities said the attacker returned home where he killed his wife and child before killing himself.
Police say the attacker, who was armed with a pistol, rifle and a knife, was identified as 34-year-old Panya Khamrab, a former police officer who was dismissed from the force last year due to drug use.
Witnesses say the attacker approached the day care, in the rural Na Klan community shortly after mid-day. A police spokesman said day care staff locked the door when they saw he was armed, but he forced his way in, either by kicking or shooting in the door.
Witness say he initially shot and killed at least four employees before attacking the children many of whom, the Reuters news agency reports, were napping in another room. Police said he used a knife in most of the attacks on the children.
At a news conference Thai police chief, Damrongsak Kittiprapas told reporters the attacker either shot or stabbed anyone he encountered as he left the daycare center and made his way home.
From his Twitter account, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha order an urgent investigation of the incident. The police chief said the suspect had been in court earlier in the day and had then gone to the daycare center to collect his child, who was not there when he arrived.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.