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Criminal investigation initiated in deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) The U.S. military has launched a criminal inquiry into the killings of two Army officers at a base north of Baghdad, the military said Friday.

The soldiers were killed Tuesday evening in what the military first believed was an ''indirect fire'' attack on Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, a military statement said. An indirect fire attack involves enemy artillery or mortar rounds fired from a location some distance away.

''Upon further examination of the scene by explosive ordnance personnel, it was determined the blast pattern was inconsistent with a mortar attack,'' the statement added without elaborating.

The officers, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, were assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard. Esposito was company commander and Allen served as a company operations officer.

The statement said the military's Criminal Investigation Division is investigating their deaths as a criminal case.

U.S. military officials contacted by The Associated Press declined to comment further.

Commanding officer of the 42nd Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, extended the military's ''deepest sadness and sympathy for the tragic loss of these two great soldiers.''

The 42nd Infantry Division took over from the 1st Infantry Division in January and is responsible for a vast section of northern and central Iraq.

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