A North Korean man believed to be an army deserter has been arrested and accused of killing four Chinese nationals in their homes during attempted robberies, according to published reports. 

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a source with knowledge of the incident, said that the spree took place Dec. 27 in the Chinese town of Nanping, which is located just north of the Tumen River that forms part the boundary between China and North Korea. 

The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported that the man stole a pistol and broke into the home of an ethnic Korean man identified only as Xu. The suspect shot and killed Xu and his wife before going to the home of their neighbors, whom he beat to death with his weapon. The paper reported that the man then entered a third home and stole 100 Chinese yuan ($16) and some food.  

That evening, the paper reported, the suspect was shot in the stomach after a manhunt by Chinese police and military officials and is currently in a coma. The paper reported that Chinese authorities have increased surveillance of the North Korean border, and are likely to restrict the routes taken by defectors. 

According to Yonhap, it is not uncommon for North Koreans to cross the border and attempt robberies in search of money or food. The agency reported that in December 2013, a North Korean defector in his 20s killed an elderly Chinese couple in the border city of Yanji and stole 20,000 yuan ($3,210). In that case, the man was caught by Chinese authorities after fleeing to Beijing.

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