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Remains of Thai shooting victims released as city grapples with tragedy

Click to play video: 'Thailand mall shooting: Thousands attend vigil for victims' Thailand mall shooting: Thousands attend vigil for victims
WATCH: Thailand mall shooting: Thousands attend vigil for victims – Feb 9, 2020

Authorities in northern Thailand began releasing bodies to relatives Monday after security forces cornered and killed a soldier who carried out the country’s worst mass shooting in an hourslong siege at a shopping mall.

The soldier killed 29 people starting with his commanding officer in a stunning tragedy that began Saturday and ended Sunday morning when security forces shot dead the heavily armed attacker in Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall in Nakhon Ratchasima.

READ MORE: Thailand mass shooting: Here’s what we know about the attack that left at least 29 dead

The gunman, Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, 31, was infuriated at a land deal brokered by his commander’s mother-in-law, as far as authorities have been able to determine. She was another of his victims.

The death toll surpassed Thailand’s last major attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok killing 20 people that was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.

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Messages of sympathy for the latest tragedy were sent by several countries.

Click to play video: 'Thai mall shooting: PM says king, queen grant royal funerals to victims' Thai mall shooting: PM says king, queen grant royal funerals to victims
Thai mall shooting: PM says king, queen grant royal funerals to victims – Feb 10, 2020

The U.S. Embassy said it “stands with the people of Thailand, saddened by tragic events in Nakhon Ratchasima.”

More than 1,000 people mourned the victims Sunday night in a vigil led by Buddhist monks at the city’s town square. They lit candles and chanted.

“We are here today to pray in order to send the souls of those who die to heaven, and we ask the spirits to accept those souls. So those souls can be holy, be in heaven with goodness and beauty,” said artist Suwanee Natewong.

Many of the 58 wounded are still in bad condition. The Public Health Ministry sent a mental health crisis team to help relatives of the deceased cope with their losses.

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READ MORE: Families wait for remains of victims, answers after Thai mall shooting

Survivors and victims’ families at the city’s hospitals recounted their ordeals.

Cpl. Korakot Ampanngeun said he had been ordered to block a road so no one could go toward the gunman.

“So I was signaling to oncoming traffic, when I turned around and saw him. If I had not, I would not have survived,” he recalled. “I tried to run and find somewhere to hide. But I could only take two steps and then I heard the sound — ‘bang.’ My leg just went and I couldn’t walk. A good Samaritan helped carry me away.”

Click to play video: 'At least 20 dead after mass shooting at Thailand shopping mall' At least 20 dead after mass shooting at Thailand shopping mall
At least 20 dead after mass shooting at Thailand shopping mall – Feb 8, 2020

High school student Nachote Chotiklang said he was in his mother’s car as she passed the gunman’s vehicle.

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The assailant “got out of the car and fired into the window. At that, I ducked down and didn’t do anything until I felt that car hit something. It hit a tree.”

When the teenager was asked what happened to his mother, Nachote shook his head. Another man explained that she had died.

READ MORE: 26 killed, 57 wounded in shooting at Thai mall: police

Rachanon Kanchanamethi was riding a motorbike home when the gunman fired at him. The 13-year-old middle school student was his family’s only child.

His father spoke at the first day of his son’s Buddhist funeral.

“I don’t want to lose him like this,” Nuttawut Kanchanamethi said. “This is too sudden. We had plans for him, growing up. That’s all. We didn’t impose any expectations on him.”

Click to play video: 'Video captures sound of gunshots from shooting at Thailand mall' Video captures sound of gunshots from shooting at Thailand mall
Video captures sound of gunshots from shooting at Thailand mall – Feb 8, 2020

Nuttawut paused for a long moment.

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“I want to continue taking care of him, but I no longer have that opportunity,” he said, breaking into sobs.

The bodies of security personnel began to be flown Monday morning to the capital, Bangkok, for funerals.

Nakhon Ratchasima was not prepared for killing on such a scale. The public hospital’s lone forensic doctor is performing autopsies before the bodies are released to families for cremation, but families were told he can only do six per day, so some won’t be able to retrieve their loved ones until Tuesday.

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Thai soldier kills at least 16 in mall shooting rampage – Feb 8, 2020

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