North Korea shells South Korean island

South Korea has scrambled F-16 fighter jets after North Korean troops fired dozens of rounds of artillery towards Yeonpyeong

Tania Branigan in Beijing and agencies


South Korean TV shows huge plumes of smoke rising from Yeonpyeong island. Photograph: KBS/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea’s military is on its highest non-wartime alert level after North Korean troops fired dozens of rounds of artillery on to a populated island near disputed waters, reportedly injuring civilians and soldiers.
It has scrambled F-16 fighter jets to the western sea and returned fire after the North shot off artillery towards South Korean waters and Yeonpyeong at around 2.30pm today, officials said.
South Korea’s YTN television said two residents were injured and many more were being evacuated to bunkers. It reported that several houses were on fire and that shells were still falling on the island, broadcasting images of black and white plumes of smoke rising above the land.
A resident told the station that between 1,200 and 1,300 people live on Yeongpyeong. The South’s military said it was checking for damage to civilians.
Yonhap news agency, quoting a military official, said four soldiers were wounded. The reports could not be verified immediately.
The incident came during a routine drill by Southern forces in waters near the island, the military said.
“We upgraded the military’s alert posture on North Korea,” Colonel Lee Bung-woo, spokesman at the South’s joint chiefs of staff, told Yonhap.
Reuters said the military had announced it was on its highest non-wartime alert level.
The disputed maritime border has long been a source of friction and has seen repeated skirmishes, some fatal, in recent years.
Relations between the two Koreas have remained tense since the South’s Cheonan warship sank in March, killing 46 sailors. An international investigation led by Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo, but Pyongyang denies any involvement.
The latest conflict comes amid growing international concern over reports that North Korea has a new uranium enrichment facility.

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