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U.S. Army major may have known plan to kill priests

A U.S. Army major testified that he had advance knowledge of Salvadoran military plans to kill six Jesuit priests, but later retracted the allegations saying he made them under pressure from the FBI, documents show. However, lie-detector tests by Maj. Erick Buckland show that he may have been lying when he said he had no advance knowledge of the killings, an FBI report said.

Foreign journalists obtained copies of the report and Buckland's statements to the FBI Friday.

Buckland was a military adviser in El Salvador when the six priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were shot to death at Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA) last Nov. 16. He made the statements between Jan. 10 and 18.

The statements were withheld from Salvadoran investigators for 10 months by the U.S. Embassy here, Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., who is monitoring the case, said earlier this week.

Judge Ricardo Zamora, in charge of the case, received Buckland's testimony Monday.

According to the documents, Buckland told the FBI in an affidavit about two months after the killings that he learned of a plot by army officers against the priests at least 10 days before the slayings.

He said he received the information from Salvadoran Col. Carlos Armando Aviles, a close friend and colleague.

"(Col. Guillermo) Benavides stated to Aviles he wanted to do something about the priests and things coming out of the UCA," Buckland said in a handwritten statement Jan. 11.

The Salvadoran military believed the priests were sympathetic to leftist guerrillas fighting the U.S.-backed government.

"Aviles told me they wanted to handle it the old way by killing some of the priests," Buckland added.