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Standoff with S. Korean soldier who killed five comrades

SEOUL -- South Korean troops traded fire in a standoff Sunday with a cornered conscript soldier who went on the run after shooting dead five members of his unit on the border with North Korea.

The 23-year-old army sergeant, surnamed Lim, had opened fire on fellow soldiers at a guard post on the eastern section of the heavily guarded frontier Saturday night.

The shooting spree left five dead and seven wounded — and triggered a massive manhunt after Lee fled the scene armed with a K-2 assault rifle and a stash of ammunition.

A defense ministry spokesman said Lim, who had an apparent record of instability, had been tracked and cornered just before 2:30 pm (0530 GMT) Sunday near an elementary school around 10 kilometers (six miles) from the border.

“He shot at the pursuing troops and they returned fire,” the spokesman said, adding that one officer had been wounded in the arm.

Local media reported that Lim's parents had been brought to the scene and had pleaded with their son to surrender.

As night fell, Lim was believed to be holed out in a small section of forest on a hill behind the school.

Some 500 residents of a nearby village, most of them elderly, were evacuated from their homes to another school building as a precaution.

“I've never known anything like this in my life,” one 60-year-old villager told the Yonhap news agency.

“I stayed up all of last night. My children live far away and they're very worried about me,” she said.

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

All those killed or wounded in Saturday's incident were members of the 22nd infantry division, in the eastern province of Gangwon.

Thousands of soldiers took part in the search for the fugitive, including special forces units, as army helicopters scanned the area from above.

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South Korean soldiers aim their machine guns as they search for a South Korean conscript who is on the run after a shooting incident in Goseong, South Korea, Sunday, June 22. (AP)

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