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South Korean soldier shoots dead five comrades near North Korean border

The soldier is believed to have gone on the run following the incident

A South Korean soldier killed five comrades and wounded a further five near the border with North Korea, a military official has said.

The army sergeant opened fire with a rifle at an outpost in Gangwon province, east of Seoul, an official at South Korea’s Defence Ministry said.

The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

The exact circumstances of the incident remain unclear. Local media reported that the soldier was at large with his weapon - but the military official declined to confirm whether the soldier was still at large.

Thousands of troops from the rival Koreas square off along the world's most heavily armed border.

There was no indication that North Korea was involved. But tensions between the rivals have been high recently, with North Korea staging a series of missile and artillery drills and threatening South Korea's leader.

The Koreas have also traded fire along their disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea. South Korea has repeatedly vowed to respond with strength if provoked by the North.

Shootings happen occasionally at the border.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the military under a conscription system aimed at countering aggression from North Korea.

The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 US soldiers are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

Additional reporting by agencies