US prisoner in North Korea 'has attempted suicide'

North Korea said yesterday that an American imprisoned for illegally entering the reclusive country has tried to kill himself.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, from Boston, attempted to commit suicide and is being treated at a hospital, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The KCNA said the attempt was "driven by his strong guilty conscience" and despair that the US government has not tried to gain his freedom.

The brief dispatch also said the Swedish embassy, which handles US interests, was aware of his condition. The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Mr Gomes was sentenced to eight years' hard labour and fined $700,000 in April after being found guilty of illegally entering the country in January and for an unspecified "hostile act". He had been working as an English teacher in South Korea, and reportedly crossed the border from China.

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