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South Korean military captures soldier suspected of killing 5

By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The soldier's life is not in danger after he underwent surgery, officials say
  • NEW: He left a note apologizing to the victims and their families, the Defense Ministry says
  • Sgt. Lim is accused of killing five fellow soldiers at a base near the North Korean border
  • He was carrying out military service and has been deemed in need of special attention

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- A fugitive South Korean soldier suspected of killing five members of his unit has been captured after he shot himself, bringing an end to a tense standoff.

The enlisted soldier suffered heavy bleeding after shooting himself in his side below his left shoulder, the Defense Ministry said. He underwent surgery for his injuries, which are not life-threatening, according to authorities.

The military had surrounded the soldier, identified as Sgt. Lim, in northeastern Gangwon province, and exchanged gunfire with him on Sunday.

Lim, who was three months from the end of his compulsory military service, is accused of shooting and throwing a grenade at his fellow soldiers on Saturday at a base in a remote area near the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

He had been categorized as a soldier in need of special attention, according to the Defense Ministry.

In March 2013, he was classed in category A, for soldiers showing signs of possibly committing suicide or causing accidents. But he was later changed to category B, for soldiers who with the help of others can carry out normal military life.

Pleas for surrender

Authorities said he used a K2, a semiautomatic rifle that is a standard South Korean army weapon. It is similar to the U.S. military's standard weapon, the M16.

The military had been in contact with Lim, repeatedly asking him to surrender, said Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.

On Monday morning, he spoke to his father on a phone provided to him by a military officer. His father and older brother later arrived at the scene of the standoff and continued efforts to persuade him to hand himself in, Kim said.

But Lim didn't comply and shot himself with his rifle. He now faces investigation by military authorities.

Lim left a note before his apparent suicide attempt, apologizing to the victims and their families, Kim said.

There have been previous cases of South Korean military service members going on shooting rampages, in 2005 and 2011.

The base where he was serving is in an isolated area and carries out around-the-clock surveillance for any movements by North Korea, said Park Soo-geun, a former South Korean military intelligence official.

CNN's K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Will Ripley contributed to this report.

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