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U.S. soldier suspected of murder in Panama likely to face military justice

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier suspected of murdering a Panamanian woman will "most likely" face charges in a military court in the United States, a U.S. military spokesman said on Sunday.

Master Sergeant Omar Velez is being held in pretrial confinement at the U.S. Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but formal charges have not been filed against him, said Colonel William Bigelow, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command.

Velez was conducting trainings in Panama as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization, a unit generally associated with foreign sales of military equipment, Bigelow said by telephone.

He said Velez will probably face charges in U.S. military courts. He emphasized that a final decision has not been made.

Panama's attorney general's office has not commented on the case.

Panamanian daily newspaper Critica has reported that Velez was apprehended as he was attempting to bury the body of the 26-year-old victim, with whom he was believed to have a romantic relationship.

The U.S. Southern Command cannot confirm those details, spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson said.

The U.S. Army "will fully investigate this tragedy and take any and all appropriate action," according to a statement issued late last week.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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