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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 19:21 GMT
US 'deeply regrets' civilian killings
Korean refugee column
US generals thought refugee columns could hide infiltrators
President Bill Clinton has said he "deeply regrets" the deaths of unarmed refugees by American troops during the first weeks of the Korean War.

We understand and sympathise with the sense of loss and sorrow that remains even after a half a century has passed

President Clinton
"On behalf of the United States of America, I deeply regret that Korean civilians lost their lives at No Gun Ri in late July 1950," he said in a statement.

The statement stopped short of the apology demanded by many survivors of the massacre.

A Pentagon report into the incident and a statement of mutual understanding between the two countries are due to be released later on Thursday.

'No orders'

President Clinton said that the two sides had agreed in the statement that "an unconfirmed number of innocent Korean refugees were killed or injured there".

"To those Koreans who lost loved ones at No Gun Ri, I offer my condolences. Many American have experienced the anguish of innocent casualties of war.

"We understand and sympathise with the sense of loss and sorrow that remains even after a half a century has passed," he said.

The year-long Pentagon investigation involved the review of more than a million documents and interviews with about 170 veterans.

No Gun Ri bridge
The bridge at No Gun Ri as it is now
The inquiry is reported to have failed to find conclusive evidence of any specific orders given by US commanders to fire on civilians at No Gun Ri.

Instead, it is expected the report will suggest that ill-equipped and poorly-trained soldiers opened fire on civilians under the bridge because they had been warned that North Korean troops, disguised as refugees, were infiltrating their lines.

Advocates for the victims say the fear of communist agents led to a deliberate attack on the group of civilians.

As an expression of regret Washington has agreed to finance the construction of a monument to the civilian victims of the war in South Korea, and has offered to create a memorial scholarship for Korean students.

US troops were stationed in South Korea at the head of a United Nations coalition defending the country after an invasion from the northern half of the divided peninsula in 1950.

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See also:

11 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
US recognises Korean massacre suffering
10 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
US probes Korean massacre allegations
10 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean War atrocity probe begins
14 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul 'atrocity' inquiry stepped up
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