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His cunning almost got him out, through the morning fog and past the cordon of troops sent to trap him.

Then a South Korean soldier spotted a figure under a tree, and the final shootout began, South Korean officials said. The North Korean spy went down Friday in a hail of bullets that ended a three-day manhunt.The wounded North Korean had eluded more than 20,000 soldiers and police, sniffer dogs, two dozen helicopters and high-tech search equipment in what seemed like a scene from a Cold War spy novel.

The report of the spy's death came from South Korean officials and military spokesmen. Communist North Korea called the incident a fabrication.

South Korea, which engages in a steady stream of invective against its arch-enemy and widely publicizes attempts to infiltrate the country, promised to strengthen security.

It was the second deadly cross-border incident in a week. A North Korean infiltrator was shot dead near the border on Oct. 17. The North said that incident was also a fabrication.

According to the South Korean accounts, the manhunt began Tuesday when South Korean police tried to detain two men in a taxi after a tip that they might be stealing food.

A shootout ensued that left one policeman dead, two wounded and one man, Kim Do Shik, under interrogation. The other fled up densely wooded Suksong mountain, 100 miles from the border.

Kim identified his colleague as Park Kwang Nam and claimed they had been sent two months ago to extricate a North Korean deep-cover agent after 10 years.

South Korean troops taking part nearby in military exercises with U.S. soldiers flooded to the heavily wooded area, setting up a double cordon.

At night, the troops pulled out of the 10-square-mile primary search area to use a device that detects body heat. No luck.

On Friday, with fog shrouding the mountain, the troops started to close in. Park apparently ventured out to try to escape. On a ridge 700 yards outside the first cordon, he was spotted under a tree.

Within seconds, Park was shot at least three times in the legs and head. He died several hours later after being flown to a Seoul hospital.