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Killer soldier who shot dead five colleagues captured after tense standoff

The 22-year-old soldier, who was a conscript to the army, was captured after a 24-hour standoff.

South Korean soldiers on a truck searching for the soldier who was on the run after the shooting
South Korean soldiers on a truck searching for the soldier who was on the run after the shooting
Image: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

A SOUTH KOREAN military conscript who killed five members of his unit was captured today after shooting and wounding himself following a tense 24-hour standoff with thousands of troops.

“He shot himself in the side and we have captured him alive,” a defence ministry spokesman told AFP, adding that the 22-year-old sergeant had been taken to hospital.

Thousands of soldiers backed by special forces units and army helicopters had surrounded the conscript, identified by his family name Lim, since he was tracked down on Sunday afternoon to a forested area south of the heavily militarised frontier with North Korea.

Armed with a K-2 assault rifle and a stash of ammunition, Lim went on the run on Saturday night after killing five fellow soldiers and wounding seven others at a frontline border outpost.

Prior to turning his gun on himself, Lim had spoken via a mobile phone with his parents who had urged him to surrender.

South Korea Border Shooting Soldiers aim their guns during the search for the 22-year-old soldier Source: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

An army officer who requested anonymity told Yonhap news agency that Lim had been in tears when he asked troops to hand the phone over to his father. “He talked to his parents for several minutes, and they pleaded with him to surrender,” the officer was quoted as saying.

Lim had traded fire with his pursuers late on Sunday before digging in for the night in a section of forest outside a village some 10 kilometres from the border.

One platoon leader was wounded in the arm in the exchange and the defence ministry said another soldier was wounded by friendly fire.

South Korea Border Shooting South Korean soldiers behind a wall during a gunfight with the 22-year-old suspect. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Lim was due to be discharged in the next few months after completing his compulsory military service.

The motive behind the shooting was unclear, but army sources said he had difficulty adapting to the military, and psychological evaluators had advised senior officers to pay him special attention.

The incident triggered a massive military manhunt involving more than 4,000 soldiers. After a night on the run, Lim was finally cornered near Myungpa-ri village in eastern Gangwon province.

South Korea Border Shooting Soldiers head to the search for the soldier. Source: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

Around 500 residents, most of them elderly, were evacuated from their homes to a school building as a precaution.

Bullying in the barracks

Lim’s deadly shooting spree occurred at a guard post next to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) — a buffer strip that runs the full length of the 250-kilometre inter-Korean frontier.

Because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

South Korea Border Shooting Source: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

Many of the South Korean soldiers on border duty are young male recruits doing their mandatory two-year military service.

These young men make up a large part of the South’s 691,000-strong troop presence, compared with 1.17 million in the North.

Most of the victims in Saturday’s shooting were conscripts, aged from 19 to 23.

The defence ministry issued a “sincere apology” over the incident.

South Korea North Korea American Detained A South Korean soldier stands guard at a checkpoint on Saturday Source: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

“We pray for the souls of the victims and express our deepest regret for the victims, the injured and their families,” it said.

Bullying and cruelty in the barracks have long tarnished the armed forces, and been blamed for suicides and similar shooting incidents.

In July 2011, a 19-year-old marine conscript killed four colleagues in a shooting spree on Ganghwa island near the border.

In June 2005, eight soldiers were killed and two seriously wounded when a 22-year-old conscript threw a grenade and sprayed bullets over sleeping colleagues at a frontline guard post north of Seoul.

- © AFP, 2014

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