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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Seoul 'atrocity' inquiry stepped up

Bridge blown 'as refugees streamed across'

The South Korean Government is promising to broaden its inquiry into allegations that US soldiers killed hundreds of civilians during the early months of the Korean war.

The pledge follows fresh allegations based on testimony from US veterans and the accounts of Korean survivors.

Last month, an initial inquiry was launched after it was revealed that as many as 300 South Koreans may have been machine-gunned by Americans under the No Gun Ri railway bridge.

The killings were said to have taken place in July 1950. The Americans said they were told that North Koreans had been disguising themselves as South Korean refugees.

[ image: Major-General Hobart Gay 'ordered detonation']
Major-General Hobart Gay 'ordered detonation'
The new allegations, which follow investigations by the Associated Press, concern the blowing-up of two other bridges on the Nakdong river.

AP says hundreds of civilian refugees were flooding across the bridges at the time.

Major-General Herbert R Gay later agreed that he had given the order to detonate the explosives under one of the bridges, AP says.

Many US officers believed that some of the refugees were enemy infiltrators pretending to be peasants. Maj-Gen Gay died in 1983.

The South Korean and US governments are conducting inquiries.

A government spokesman in Seoul says the initial focus will be No Gun Ri but other allegations will not be neglected.

Compensation claims

The US Defence Secretary William Cohen has said the US will also investigate other allegations.

The US and South Korean inquiries are separate, but evidence will be shared. There have already been demands for a US apology and compensation in South Korea.

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