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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 24, 2004

GI kills Iraqi guardsman
after having sex with him

Fort Leavenworth, Kan.--An American soldier has pleaded guilty to killing a young Iraqi National Guardsman after the two engaged in consensual sex in a guard tower.

Private Federico Daniel Merida, 21, pleaded guilty in September to the killing of the 17-year-old Iraqi, and was sentenced on September 25 to 25 years in prison, a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

The Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer obtained records of Merida�s court martial, which is believed to be the first time that an American soldier willfully killed an allied Iraqi soldier. The Iraqi�s name was redacted in the report, but the Los Angeles Times reported that he was Falah Zaggam.

Merida, who was born in Mexico, lived in Biscoe, a small town in North Carolina.

On May 11, when the Iraqi went to relieve himself, Merida chambered a single round in Zaggam�s AK-47 assault rifle and then removed the clip.

When Zaggam returned from the latrine, Merida handed him the rifle, then forced the young man�s finger to pull the trigger, shooting the chambered bullet into the roof of the guard tower. Merida then called in that Zaggam tried to kill him and shot the young man with his M4, a shortened version of an M16.

After Zaggam had fallen down the guard tower�s stairs, Merida continued to shoot him. Zaggam had 11 bullet wounds.

Afterwards, Merida took the magazine out of his M-4 and called in that he had killed Zaggam.

Merida�s final account of the events that night was the third he offered to investigators.

First, he told them that Zaggam demanded money from him, threatening him with the AK-47, and that the young man�s death was self-defense.

When investigators were skeptical of that story, Merida claimed the teen forced him to have sex.

Interviewed a third time, Merida confessed that they had engaged in consensual sex, and that he had killed Zaggam afterwards.

Merida pleaded guilty to murder without premeditation and two counts of giving false statements as part of a plea bargain that ensured his sentence would not exceed 25 years.

Merida, a member of the North Carolina National Guard, apologized to Zaggam�s family during his court martial.

�He was a son, a brother, someone very important to them,� he said. �I took someone they loved and cared for.�

He is being held at Fort Leavenworth following the court martial, which took place at Forward Operating Base Danger in Iraq.

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