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Sergeant ordered him to kill, soldier says

Army opens probe into other deaths

BAGHDAD - A US soldier cried yesterday as he told a court-martial that his staff sergeant ordered him to shoot an unarmed Iraqi. He said the sergeant then laughed and told the trooper to finish the job as the dying man convulsed on the ground.

The military reported, meanwhile, that it had opened probe into the deaths of five women and four children this week in a village where US forces had carried out ground and air assaults.

Both events took place in a region south of the capital.

Prosecutors say the first case involved the killing of an Iraqi man, placing an AK-47 rifle by his body to make it seem as though he was armed, and failing to ensure humane treatment of a detainee.

In the court-martial, Sergeant Evan Vela, 23, spoke barely above a whisper as he recounted shooting the man on May 11 near Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni city 30 miles south of Baghdad.

Vela said Staff Sergeant Michael Hensley of Candler, N.C., told him to shoot the man, who had stumbled upon their hideout, although he was not armed.

"He asked me if I was ready," Vela said of Hensley. "I had the pistol out. I heard the word 'shoot.' I don't remember pulling the trigger."

As the Iraqi man was convulsing on the ground, Vela said, "Hensley kind of laughed about it and hit the guy on the throat and said shoot again.

Vela was testifying during the second day of the court-martial of Specialist Jorge G. Sandoval of Laredo, Texas. Sandoval is on trial for allegedly killing Iraqis and trying to cover up the deaths by planting weapons at the scene.

Vela said Sandoval was not present during the May 11 killing, but was nearby providing security. Sandoval has pleaded not guilty.

It was unclear why Vela was called to testify in Sandoval's court-martial.

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