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South Korean Troops Exchange Fire With Rogue Soldier Accused of Killing 5 Comrades

Several helicopters and special commandos had been deployed to search for Lim in the forest approximately six miles from the border outpost.

by Liz Fields
Jun 22 2014, 2:55pm

Photo via AP

A South Korean soldier accused of killing five comrades was caught in a firefight with troops as they closed in on him in a forest close to his outpost on the North Korean border on Sunday afternoon.

The situation is still ongoing.

The soldier, who is identified only by his surname, Lim, was missing for less than 24 hours before he was surrounded just north of the Civilian Control Access Line, near the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, according to local media.

A platoon leader was wounded after Lim threw a grenade at troops and fired shots with his rifle, which was returned with gunfire, according to military officials.

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Several helicopters and special commandos had been deployed to search for Lim in the forest approximately six miles from the border outpost, bringing with them Lim's parents, to try and convince their son to surrender.

The skirmish followed the incident on Saturday when Lim, a 22-year-old Sergeant, detonated a grenade and opened fire on his barracks in the eastern town of Goseong in Gangwon Province, killing five fellow soldiers of his 22nd Army Division and injuring seven.

Two of the wounded soldiers were immediately taken by helicopter to a military hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province on Saturday night, where they received emergency surgery, the Korean Herald reported. They are in stable condition.

The remaining wounded personnel were treated for minor injuries in a nearby hospital.

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Lim fled the scene immediately after the rampage with at least one grenade, his K-2 rifle and some 60 bullets. The 22ns Army Division soon issued the highest-level vigilance order to stop the rogue soldier from defecting to North Korea.

A motive has not yet been determined, but South Korean army officials say the incident is not linked to North Korea. The Defence Ministry is investigating and have assigned 48 army officers to the case.

Local media reported that Lim was to be discharged from the army in September this year after joining in December 2012.

A mental assessment deemed him unfit for duty in April last year, but later tests administered in November 2013 and March 2014 considered him mentally fit to carry out the frontline mission.

The incident comes amid elevated tensions between the opposing Koreas over the North Korea's recent rocket and missile launches and threats to "wipe out" South Korean President Park Geun-hye's government after a Seoul official said the North "must disappear soon."

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There have been previous instances of violent soldier rampages on the world's most heavily armed border between North and South Korea.

Most recently, a 19-year-old marine corporal, who was thought to been mentally ill, went on a shooting spree on an Island base just south of the maritime border with North Korea.

Earlier in 2005, an army private set off a hand grenade and opened fire on fellow soldiers at a post on the frontlines of the border, killing eight and sounding several more.