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US must help villages hit by army killing spree: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a military academy outside Kabul on June 18, 2013
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a military academy outside Kabul on June 18, 2013. Karzai said Saturday that the United States should ensure a better future for villages where an American army sergeant went on a killing rampage last year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that the United States should ensure a better future for villages where an American army sergeant went on a killing rampage last year.

Robert Bales was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday for murdering 16 civilians when he slipped away from his base to attack homes in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province in the south of Afghanistan.

Bales, 40, had earlier pleaded guilty to the killings in a deal brokered by his defence to avoid the death penalty.

"A life sentence or a death sentence will not bring back the children he killed or the happiness of the families," Karzai told a press conference in Kabul.

"We are more trying to bring an end to suffering of Afghan people rather than revenge.

"What I want from the US is to go back to those families and to provide them (with) an opportunity for a better livelihood... to replenish their orchards and vineyards... so the next generation can live in a better environment."

Afghan survivors of the soldier's massacre were in the US court room as Bales, who had been drinking before the attack, was ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Relatives in Kandahar echoed the survivors' calls for a death sentence, saying Bales should have been tried in Afghanistan, where capital punishment is legal.

"Now they are telling us that they have put the guy in jail," Sayed Jan, who lost four members of his family, told AFP. "That is not enough for us, we want him hanged.

"I always dream about my family who were killed and when I wake up I don't see them around. My tears start falling when I talk about them. I still remember all of them soaked in blood."

Although sentenced to life without parole, Bales could seek clemency after serving 20 years of his sentence.

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