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TIKRIT, Iraq — The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of two officers earlier this week in Tikrit in what officials believed was “an indirect fire attack.”

Killed in the incident were the commander and operations officer of the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 42nd Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard.

The commander was identified Friday as Capt. Phillip T. Esposito. Also killed was 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen, the company operations officer, who had just arrived to the unit. The company that Esposito led provides support to the division headquarters in areas such as personnel, supply and training.

Esposito and Allen were killed in a blast at 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to an Army news release. Soldiers who were there at the time of the incident said they heard more than one explosion.

The two officers lived in a ground-floor room in a small palace building situated on a man-made lake on Forward Operating Base Danger. More than 100 other soldiers live in the structure.

On Friday, soldiers could be seen carrying newly filled sandbags into the building, which has at least three levels.

“The initial investigation by responders and military police indicated that a mortar round struck the window on the side of the building where Esposito and Allen were located at the time,” the Army news release stated.

“Upon further examination of the scene by explosive ordnance personnel, it was determined the blast pattern was inconsistent with a mortar attack,” the release noted.

Army officials said the Multi-National Corps-Iraq has opened a criminal investigation into the deaths. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division is heading the inquiry. Officials have not elaborated on exactly what led them to open the criminal investigation.

“On behalf of all the Soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division and Task Force Liberty, I want to extend our deepest sadness and sympathy for the tragic loss of these two great Soldiers, as we do for each and every one of our brave men and women who lost their lives here in Iraq,” Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, the division commander, said in a statement.

“Even as we mourn our loss of these two outstanding Rainbow Division officers,” Taluto concluded, “our task force soldiers remain committed, focused and disciplined for their work ahead.”


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