Soldier in gun rampage that left five colleagues dead captured

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A South Korean soldier who went on the run after allegedly killing five colleagues has been captured following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, military officials said.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said the 22-year-old sergeant, identified only by his surname Yim, shot himself in the side of his abdomen but failed to kill himself. He said Yim has been taken to a nearby hospital.

A massive manhunt was launched for Yim after authorities said he killed five comrades and injured seven others near the North Korean border on Saturday night before fleeing his frontline army unit with his standard issue K2 assault rifle. On Sunday, he fired on the troops chasing him, injuring a platoon leader.

Yesterday, officials said a South Korean soldier was wounded by suspected friendly fire. Troops had surrounded Yim in a forest about four miles from the border outpost and threw him a mobile phone so he could talk to his father. Yim’s parents also used a loudspeaker to try to persuade him to surrender.

It was not clear what triggered the rampage and there was no indication that North Korea, South Korea’s bitter rival, was involved.

Yim was due to complete his near two years of mandatory military service in September, according to defence officials. Initial personality tests last April put him within a group of soldiers who needed special attention and were unfit for frontline duty, a Defence Ministry official said. But tests last November concluded that he had improved and could serve in the frontline area.

The rampage comes as South Koreans grapple with worries over public safety in the wake of an April ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Some in Seoul have raised questions about the discipline and readiness of South Korea’s military, which is under near-constant threat from a North Korea that has recently staged a series of missile and artillery drills, traded fire with the South near a disputed maritime border 
and threatened South Korea’s leader.

Hundreds of thousands of troops from the rival Koreas are squared off along the world’s most heavily armed border.