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Last Updated: Friday, 17 June, 2005, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
US officers 'murdered by soldier'
US helicopter flies over Tikrit
The soldiers were stationed at Forward Operating Base Danger
A US soldier serving in Iraq has been charged with murdering two of his own officers whose deaths in an explosion were initially blamed on rebels.

Capt Phillip T Esposito and 1st Lt Louis E Allen were said to have been killed in a mortar attack near the town of Tikrit on 7 June.

However, the military has since charged Sgt Alberto Martinez with the two deaths in his National Guard unit.

He is being held in Kuwait on two counts of premeditated murder.

The officers were killed by an explosion outside the window of their office late in the evening.

"On initial investigation it looked like a mortar round but on further examination it was determined the blast pattern was inconsistent with a mortar attack," army spokeswoman Martha Rudd told AFP news agency.

Investigators are still trying to establish what kind of munition caused the explosion, as well as the motive for the attack.

'Popular officer'

According to AFP, Sgt Martinez, 37, joined the New York-based 42nd Infantry Division in 1990 and was serving in its headquarters company along with the two officers.

He had been on active duty since July 2003.

Capt Esposito, 30, was the company commander and 1st Lt Allen, 34, was the company operations officer.

The company was based at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown 130km (80 miles) north of Baghdad.

At Capt Esposito's funeral in New York, he was praised by another officer, Maj John Schurtz:

"The soldiers loved him. He made it his job to get to know his men. It was part of his nature, part of his calm leadership style."

In April, a US military court sentenced another sergeant, Hasan Akbar, to death for killing two US officers in a grenade attack in Kuwait at the beginning of the war in Iraq.

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