Soldier: Sgt. ordered me to shoot Iraqi man
By Katarina Kratovac - The Associated Press
Thursday Sep 27, 2007
BAGHDAD — A U.S. soldier broke down in tears Thursday as he testified that he was ordered to shoot an unarmed Iraqi man, and that his sergeant, a North Carolina man, laughed and told the trooper to finish the job as the man convulsed on the ground.
Sgt. Evan Vela’s testimony came during the court-martial of Spc. 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, Sandoval and Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley of Candler, N.C., are all charged in the case.
Vela testified that Hensley told him to shoot the Iraqi man, although he was not armed and had his hands in the air when he approached the soldiers.
“He asked me if I was ready. I had the pistol out. I heard the word ‘shoot.’ I don’t remember pulling the trigger. It took me a second to realize that the shot came from the pistol in my hand,” he said, crying and speaking barely above a whisper.
Vela said that as the Iraqi man was convulsing on the ground, “Hensley laughed about it and hit the guy on the throat and said shoot again.”
“After [the Iraqi man] was shot, Sergeant Hensley pulled an AK-47 out of his rucksack and said, ‘This is what we are going to say happened,’” Vela said. He was dismissed from the witness stand to compose himself.
Vela said Sandoval, who was nearby providing security, was not present during the killing outside Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni Arab city 30 miles south of Baghdad.
Sandoval faces five charges, including an April 27 murder of an unknown Iraqi male, placing a detonation wire on his body, premeditated murder of the Iraqi on May 11, placing an AK-47 rifle on his body and failing to ensure humane treatment of a detainee — the victim.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
Vela, of Rigby, Idaho, was flown from Kuwait to testify under a deal that would bar his words from being used against him when he stands before a court-martial.
The investigation began after military authorities received reports of alleged wrongdoing from fellow soldiers, the Army has said. Sandoval was arrested in June while on a two-week leave visiting his family.
Vela’s defense attorney, Gary Myers, claimed earlier this week that Army snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to “bait” their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, then kill those who picked up the items. He said his client was acting on “orders.”
The Washington Post, which first reported the “baiting” program, said it was devised by the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, which advises commanders in unconventional conflicts.
Within months of the “baiting” program’s introduction, Sandoval, Vela and Hensley were charged with murder for allegedly using those tactics to make shootings seem legitimate, according to the Post.
The Army has declined to confirm such a program existed.
The Iraq war has seen U.S. service members face prosecution in several high-profile incidents, including abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, the killings of 24 civilians by Marines in Hadithah, and the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family south of Baghdad. Iraqis have accused American soldiers of unnecessary killings or abuse.
Note: The U.S. Army Sniper/killer Jorge G Sandoval has been acquitted !
A Military Panel has found him Not Guilty of Murder and has convicted this killer of Planting Evidence only!
The New York times reports:
American forces said Thursday that they were investigating the deaths of nine civilians in a village about 60 miles southwest of Baghdad. The bodies — five women and four children — were found after a raid in Babahani village by American forces on Tuesday, according to a news release.
“Coalition Forces conducted operations in the area using ground and air assets prior to the discovery of the bodies,” the release said.
According to Iraqi military sources, the American raid began around 11 p.m. when a bomb was dropped on one of the houses in which the women and children apparently were staying. Shortly afterward, a second house was struck, killing two men and wounding two others, according to an officer from the Iraqi Army’s Eighth Division, First Brigade. Soldiers then entered a mosque and detained the imam, Mohammed Hassan al-Janabi, the officer said, and the operation was over by 1 a.m.