US soldier kills Iraqi superior of personal vendetta

United States military investigating officer recommended on Tuesday that a National Guard soldier be court martialled for murdering two of his superiors in Iraq in June. Colonel Patrick Reinert said he found "reasonable cause" to believe that Staff Sergeant Alberto B Martinez, of Troy, New York State, used an anti-personnel mine and three grenades to kill a captain and a lieutenant in a "personal vendetta."

The killing of Captain Philip Esposito and Lieutenant Louis E Allen in an explosion at a base near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit is believed to be first case of an American soldier in Iraq accused of killing his superiors.

Reinert said he also found aggravating factors that could allow for capital punishment.

Reinert's recommendation, which came at the end of a two-day hearing in this camp in Kuwait, will be submitted to Lieutenant-General John Vines, the overall commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, who will decide whether there is a court-martial.

The prosecutor, Captain Adam Siple, had asked for a recommendation for a court-martial. Martinez's defence counsel had argued there was no real evidence against their client.

Captain Esposito, 30, of Suffern, New York, and Lieutenant Allen, 34, of Milford, Pennsylvania, were killed by a blast in Esposito's office in a former Saddam palace that is used as a base in Tikrit, 130km north of Baghdad, on June 7. 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.

Senior Master Sergeant Kevin Fitzgerald, an expert on explosives, told the hearing that the blast was caused by a Claymore anti-personnel mine and possibly three grenades. Surgeon Colonel Joan Sullivan told the tribunal that the men's injuries were not consistent with wounds caused by a mortar or rocket.

During Monday's session, one witness, Captain Carl Prober, said Martinez told him twice that he hated Esposito, once in September 2004 and again in May. In the second instance, Martinez said "specifically I hate (Esposito) and I'm going to frag (him)," Prober testified.

Prober did not say why Martinez said he hated Esposito. The widows of Esposito and Allen attended the hearings after the army agreed to fly them to Camp Arifjan for the sessions, reports News 24. I.L.

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