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March 29, 2011

Karzai Condemns Afghan Civilian Murders by US Troops

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the actions of five U.S. soldiers accused of being part of a squad that deliberately killed Afghan civilians.

In a speech to teachers in Kabul, Karzai said Wednesday that the U.S. troops killed Afghan youth and elders for "entertainment."  The Afghan leader said Americans are "good people" and not cruel,  but he wants them to know about the crimes committed by the rogue army unit.

The remarks were his first since the German news magazine Der Spiegel and U.S. magazine Rolling Stone published photos of U.S. soldiers posing and smiling over the bodies of dead civilians.

One of the soldiers in the photos pleaded guilty to murder last week and was sentenced to 24 years in prison for killing three civilians in southern Kandahar province.  Four other U.S. servicemen are facing charges in connection with the murders.

The U.S. Army has apologized for "distress" caused by the photographs, and said they are "contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army."

Also Wednesday, NATO announced the results of its probe into a March 26 coalition airstrike in southern Helmand province.  The coalition says the airstrike targeting a Taliban commander accidentally killed four Afghan civilians in the Nawzad district.

A NATO spokesman called the incident regrettable and offered condolences.

During his speech Wednesday, President Karzai also repeated his call to the Taliban to stop attacking schools.  He said he hoped a recent purported statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar banning such attacks was true.

In other violence, the coalition said Wednesday that separate insurgent attacks killed three of its soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.