US Army staff sergeant killed two commanders

A US Army staff sergeant was charged with murdering his two commanding officers last week at a base outside &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Baghdad, the military said yesterday in what is thought to be the first case of an American soldier in Iraq accused of killing his superiors.

Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez, 37, a supply specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 42d Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard, was charged Wednesday in connection with the June 7 deaths of the two officers at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit -- Saddam Hussein's hometown 80 miles north of Baghdad.

The officers killed in what was thought to be a ''fragging" case were Captain Phillip T. Esposito, 30, of Suffern, N.Y., and First Lieutenant Louis E. Allen, 34, of Milford, Pa. Esposito was company commander, and Allen served as a company operations officer.

Fragging is a term used to refer to soldiers killing their superiors.

The commanders were killed in what the military first believed was an ''indirect fire" attack on the base. An indirect fire attack involves enemy artillery or mortar rounds fired from a location some distance away, reports the Boston Globe.

According to Reuters, an initial investigation indicated the officers were killed by a mortar round but further examination showed the blast was "inconsistent with a mortar attack," it said. Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan gave no further details.

The &to=http:// ' target=_blank>murder case was the first of its kind among U.S. troops in Iraq itself and the first since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

Another U.S. sergeant, Hasan Akbar, was convicted in April of murdering two officers by rolling grenades into their tents and opening fire while they were massed in Kuwait on the eve of the invasion.

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