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S Korean border guard kills five fellow soldiers

A military manhunt was underway Saturday for a South Korean soldier who shot and killed five members of his own unit at a guard post on the border with North Korea.

SEOUL: A military manhunt was underway Saturday for a South Korean soldier who shot and killed five members of his own unit at a guard post on the border with North Korea.

"He shot dead five fellow soldiers, wounded five others and then fled the scene with his rifle and ammunition," an army spokesman told AFP.

There was no immediate indication of what might have triggered the shooting, which occurred shortly after 8:00pm (1200GMT) at a guard post on the eastern section of the heavily-guarded inter-Korean border.

The post was located just outside the demilitarised zone (DMZ) -- a buffer strip that runs the full length of the frontier.

The spokesman said the five wounded were taken to a military hospital and a manhunt had been launched for the armed renegade guard.

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

The DMZ is known as the world's last Cold War frontier, and separates the thriving capitalist south from isolated, impoverished North Korea which has defied the world with its nuclear drive.

Splitting the two Koreas since the 1950-53 war, the four-kilometre-wide (2.5 miles) DMZ features guard posts manned by rival armies and barbed wire, and roads bisecting minefields.

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

The army has taken strong steps in recent years to stamp out bullying of new conscripts, which has been blamed for similar shooting incidents in the past as well as a number of suicides.

In July 2011, a 19-year-old Marine doing his military service killed four colleagues in a shooting spree on Ganghwa island near the border.

He tried to kill himself with a grenade, but survived.

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.

In both cases the men were court martialed and sentenced to death, although neither penalty was carried out.

Nearly all able-bodied South Korean men between the age of 18 and 35 must undergo at least two years' military service or face imprisonment.

The South Korean military relies heavily on conscription and military service often involves postings to frontline positions on the border with North Korea.

In May 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, killing 46 sailors including 16 who were on their military service.

In November the same year, the North shelled a South Korean border island, killing two marines -- both of them young conscripts.

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