Hearing set for U.S. soldier charged with killing two fellow soldiers

A date of hearings has been set for a staff sergeant from the New York National Guard charged with murdering his two commanders at a base outside Baghdad, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Task Force Liberty Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, of Troy, New York, formerly of Headquarters Company of the 42nd Infantry Division, is accused of the June 8 killing of Capt. Philip Esposito of Suffern, New York,and Lt. Louis E. Allen of Milford, Pennsylvania.

The alleged "fragging" incident occurred at the Forward Operating Base Danger, near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit, the hometown of the deposed Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, some 80 miles north of Baghdad.

Their deaths were initially thought to be a result of "indirect fire" on the base _ a mortar round that struck a window on the side of the building where Esposito and Allen were. But a subsequent investigation determined that the blast pattern was inconsistent with a such a mortar strike and authorities believe some sort of explosive device, possibly a grenade, was used.

This is believed to be first case of an American soldier in Iraq accused of "fragging" his superiors. Fragging is a term used to refer to soldiers killing their superiors.

Martinez, 37, will face an Article 32 hearing on Sept. 19, the first step in determining whether he will be referred to a court martial to face the murder charges, The Multinational Task Force in Iraq said in a statement. The hearing is the military equivalent of a pretrial examination in civilian courts, reports the AP.

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