Third US soldier charged in investigation into murder of Iraqi civilians

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

A third United States soldier has been charged in an on-going investigation into allegations that several members of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment had premeditated the murder of Iraqi civilians, and then planted AK-47s around the corpses to give the false impression that the victims had been insurgents.

Sergeant Evan Vela, of Phoenix, Idaho, was charged with pre-meditated murder, obstruction of justice and falsely placing weapons around the victim's body to give the impression they had been shot in self-defence. Last week Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley was charged on similar counts in the deaths of three civilians, and Spc. Jorge Sandoval was charged in the death of a single civilian. All three belonged to the same unit.

The incidents occurred over the past two months in Iskandariyah, 50 kilometres south of Baghdad. The investigation began when fellow soldiers in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment reported the alleged events to their superiors.

The Asheville Citizen-Times is reporting that Vela sent an e-mail to his parents, in which he claims to be innocent and defends his kills in Iraq as "legitimate".