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Vietnam seeks to put behind reported US war crimes
( 2003-10-21 22:20) (Reuters)

Vietnam said on Tuesday it wanted to move forward from its war past with America, following a US newspaper report that an army unit known as Tiger Force may have committed war crimes.

The Blade newspaper from Toledo, Ohio, reported on Sunday that the unit killed scores of unarmed civilians, but an investigation was closed with no charges being brought.

Asked to respond to the report, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that while the war with America, which ended in 1975, "caused much suffering and losses to the Vietnamese people," it wished to close the door on such events.

"With a tradition for peace and humanitarianism in relations with the United States as well as with countries that have had a hostile past with Vietnam, our policy is to enhance mutual understanding through cooperation, promoting and continuously improving bilateral relations," the statement said.

"And that also acts as the basis to settle the consequences from the past," it added.

The Blade said it found the Army had investigated the unit for 4

years, and found 18 soldiers had committed war crimes. But the Army filed no charges, and allowed soldiers who were under suspicion of committing war crimes to resign.

The newspaper said the accusations against the unit included killing women and children, torturing prisoners and severing ears and scalps for souvenirs.

The paper said the Army's investigation of Tiger Force found 27 soldiers who said the severing of ears from dead Vietnamese was an accepted practice. One soldier told the newspaper that troops would wear necklaces of ears to scare Vietnamese civilians.

A Pentagon spokesman, reading from a prepared statement, told Reuters on Sunday: "Absent new and compelling evidence there are no plans to reopen the case. The case is more than 30 years old."

The unit of 45 paratroopers was assigned to spy on enemy forces in Vietnam's Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces between May and November 1967, the newspaper said. Unit members told the newspaper that they faced frequent sniper fire and guerrilla attacks, with dozens of soldiers wounded and some killed.

The Blade said it based its stories on interviews with@than 100 Tiger Force members and Vietnamese civilians, as well as thousands of government documents, some still classified.

Some 58,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War, while Hanoi says it lost three million civilians and military.

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