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(LEAD) Marine Corps guards mistakenly shoot at civilian plane

All Headlines 11:07 June 18, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, background in paras 3, 9-10)

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Marine Corps guards shot at a civilian airplane flying near the tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea, misidentifying it as one of the communist country's military planes, a military source said Saturday. No damage occurred, the source said.

Two soldiers guarding the southern coast of Gyodong Island in Incheon, 80 kilometers west of Seoul, fired their K-2 rifles at the Asiana Airlines flight for about 10 minutes at dawn on Friday, the source said.

They are thought to have fired a total of 99 rounds toward the South Korean plane.

At the time, the plane was making its descent into Incheon International Airport, carrying about 119 flight crew and passengers from China, according to other sources.

The airliner was undamaged as it was about 500 to 600 meters out of the range of the K-2 rifles, the military source said.

"When the plane, which the guards said they had never seen before, was approaching, the guards misidentified it as a plane from the North Korean air force and shot at it," the source said.

The soldiers claimed the airplane was flying north of the normal route, but Asiana Airlines said the plane never went off course.

"We checked yesterday through the air force and the airport control center to make sure there were no abnormalities such as being off course," a company official said.

The incident came amid lingering tensions over Pyongyang's two deadly attacks on the South last year that killed 50 South Koreans.

The North recently threatened to break off ties with South Korea and to retaliate against Seoul for anti-Pyongyang psychological warfare.

The Marine Corps said it will intensify educating its guards on how to identify civilian flights to prevent any recurrence while asking civilian flights not to deviate from set courses.

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