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US Military Acknowledges Coalition Forces Fired at Car of Freed Italian Hostage


U.S. military officials say U.S. forces in Iraq have fired on a car carrying a freed Italian hostage, injuring her and killing another passenger. An Italian government agent escorting the journalist was killed in the incident.

Friends and family members were overjoyed when they heard that journalist Giuliana Sgrena, abducted in Baghdad February 4, had just been released. But the euphoria was quickly dampened as news emerged that she had been shot and wounded.

Marine Sergeant Salju Thomas at the Coalition Press Information Center in Baghdad said the shooting took place at about 9 PM Friday night as the car carrying the journalist approached a Baghdad checkpoint at a high rate of speed.

"The recently freed Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, was an occupant in the vehicle and was apparently injured,” he said. “It appears, a second person in the automobile was killed. Miss Sgrena is being treated by coalition forces medical personnel. The incident is under investigation and additional details will be provided when they become available."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters in Rome that the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to explain how the incident had happened.

When he had at first learned that his daughter had been released, Franco Sgrena had said it was "an exceptional day". He was so overwhelmed he had to be assisted by a doctor.

At the offices of the left-leaning newspaper Il Manifesto, where Ms. Sgrena works, there were tears of joy among her colleagues when the editor confirmed she had been freed.

But moments later the euphoria turned to shock as details of the accidental shooting emerged.

The 56-year-old journalist was abducted as she was carrying out interviews near Baghdad University. Last month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and demanding that all foreign troops be pulled out of Iraq.

Earlier this month the Italian government urged all Italian journalists to leave Iraq.

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