FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A military jury yesterday convicted an Army sergeant of premeditated murder and attempted murder in a grenade and rifle attack that killed two of his comrades and wounded 14 others in Kuwait during the opening days of the Iraq war.
Hasan K. Akbar, 34, could face the death penalty, which the 15-member jury will consider at a hearing that begins Monday.
Prosecutors say Akbar told investigators he launched the attack because he was concerned that US troops would kill fellow Muslims in Iraq. They said he coolly carried out the attack to achieve ''maximum carnage" on his comrades in the 101st Airborne Division.
The verdict was announced after 2½ hours of deliberations following seven days of testimony in a court-martial, the first time since the Vietnam era that an American has been prosecuted on charges of murdering a fellow soldier in wartime.
Defense lawyers acknowledged that Akbar carried out the attack, but argued that he was mentally ill and could not have premeditated it.
Killed in the overnight attack in March 2003 were Army Captain Christopher Seifert, 27, who was shot in the back, and Air Force Major Gregory Stone, 40, who suffered 83 shrapnel wounds. The 101st was preparing to move into Iraq in support of the US invasion when the attack occurred.
''Sergeant Akbar executed that attack with a cool mind," the prosecutor, Captain Robert McGovern, said during closing arguments, cocking Akbar's unloaded M-4 rifle and pulling the trigger twice for emphasis. ''He sought maximum carnage."
Major Dan Brookhart, a defense lawyer, countered that Akbar was concerned that the invasion of Iraq would result in the deaths of Muslims and that US soldiers would rape Iraqi women.
If sentenced to death, Akbar would become the sixth soldier on military death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He also could receive a life sentence.