updated 7/2/2007 11:21:56 PM ET 2007-07-03T03:21:56

A third U.S. soldier has been charged in an investigation into alleged attempts to cover up the deaths of Iraqi civilians by planting weapons to portray them as combatants, the U.S. military said Monday.

Sgt. Evan Vela, of Phoenix, Idaho, was charged Sunday with one count of premeditated murder, making a false official statement and obstruction of justice, the military said in a statement. He was placed in pretrial confinement.

Two other soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, of Candler, N.C., and Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr., of Laredo, Texas -- were charged last week for allegedly killing three Iraqis and placing weapons on their bodies to make them appear as fighters. Vela is charged in one of the alleged slayings, but the military statement did not specify which incident.

Military prosecutors say the killings occurred between April and June near Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni Arab city south of Baghdad.

All three soldiers are assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

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