Gunfire rang out across a busy intersection in Thailand's capital for more than an hour Saturday as government supporters clashed with protesters trying to derail tense nationwide elections one day before the vote begins. At least seven people were wounded, including an American photojournalist.
People caught up in the mayhem crouched behind cars and ducked on a pedestrian bridge while others fled inside a nearby shopping mall. Several masked gunmen wearing armored vests bent down under a highway overpass as one of them fired a weapon concealed in a green sack.
The exchange of fire was the latest flare-up in a monthslong struggle by protesters to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's beleaguered government, which they accuse of corruption. The turmoil raises the prospect of more violence Sunday, when polls open for an electoral contest that has devolved into a battle of wills between the government and protesters — and those caught in between who insist on their right to vote.
Saturday's confrontation began after a group of pro-government supporters marched to a district office in the northern Bangkok suburb of Laksi. The office had been surrounded by protesters intent on preventing ballot boxes housed inside from being delivered to a nearby polling station Sunday.
Tensions mounted for hours before clashes finally broke out. As gunfire rattled the area and people screamed in fear, an enraged mob of pro-government supporters wielding huge sticks smashed the windshields of a car carrying protesters that sped away.
According to the city's emergency services, at least six Thais were wounded, including a reporter for the local Daily News newspaper. An American photojournalist, James Nachtwey, was grazed by a bullet in the leg.