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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korean DefectorIs Dead After Raid

MOSCOW -- A North Korean, who shot dead three Korean guards after bursting into the Russian embassy compound in Pyongyang to demand political asylum, has killed himself, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.


"The deserter shot himself with the pistol with which he had broken into the trade mission and with which [he] did not part to the end," Interfax quoted the unnamed official as saying. "His nerves apparently snapped," he said, adding Moscow considered the incident which happened on Wednesday closed.


Itar-Tass, quoting Russian sources in the North Korean capital, said the body of the gunman had been taken from the embassy compound "to an unknown destination."


Only some traces of blood remained in the room where he had been holed up, the agency added.


Earlier on Thursday, Itar-Tass reported that the gunman had been killed by a single bullet to the head.


The agency did not at that point refer to suicide but said officers of North Korea's special services had been allowed to enter the embassy compound.


"An operation to render the armed deserter harmless was successfully concluded as a result of close cooperation between the special services of North Korea, the ambassador and the staff of the embassy and trade mission," Itar-Tass said, quoting a Russian citizen in Pyongyang.


"The operation was prepared most thoroughly."


No Russian citizens were hurt during the operation intended to disarm the asylum-seeker, the agency said.


The man, identified as a 25-year-old sergeant in the state security guard named Cho, was armed with a pistol and had three remaining rounds of ammunition.


He had threatened to shoot himself if he were not granted asylum when he entered the Russian trade mission, set in grounds near Pyongyang center which also house the Russian embassy and diplomatic quarters.


A separate Tass report quoted a North Korean diplomat in Moscow as saying the intruder was "a criminal and mentally ill."


The diplomat, identified as counselor Li at the embassy in Moscow, said the gunman had been facing a harsh court sentence and wanted to escape it by hiding in the Russian mission. Li did not say which crime the intruder had committed.


In the Cold War era, North Korea was one of the Kremlin's closest Asian allies. Itar-Tass said the Soviet Union, in its day, had always handed over North Korean asylum-seekers to the Pyongyang authorities. But relations have cooled with the new Russia, looking for investments from South Korea.