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Italians Angered at US Report on Killing of Intelligence Officer


Italian authorities do not appear prepared to sign off on the probe into the shooting of an Italian intelligence officer in Baghdad by U.S. forces at a checkpoint. A U.S. defense official has said the final report clears the U.S. military of any responsibility.

News from Washington that the report into the killing of the Italian intelligence officer in Baghdad will clear the U.S. military of any responsibility was received with anger in Italy.

A U.S. defense official said the report will conclude the soldiers generally followed the rules of engagement. But the Italians do not agree with this and still unclear is whether they will give their blessing to the report.

The incident took place on March 4,2005 when intelligence officer Nicola Calipari traveled to Baghdad to free an Italian hostage who had been in the hands of her Iraqi captors for a month. Mr. Calipari was in the car traveling to the airport after securing the hostage's release when U.S. troops open fired on their car, killing him and injuring the hostage and driver.

From the first hours after the shooting, Rome and Washington have differed over what led to the killing.

The U.S. military has always insisted soldiers made signals at the car urging it to stop, before opening fire. The Italians say this is untrue. Former hostage Giuliana Sgrena is adamant on this point.

"The Americans attacked our car without any pre-warning," she says, "and they were warned that we would be coming. We were hit from the right hand side and from the back."

U.S. officials say the car was traveling at high speed. The Italians say they were driving no faster than 50 kilometers per hour.

Ms. Sgrena is very annoyed at what appear to be the results of the probe. Ms. Sgrena says the report is even more disappointing than she had initially expected. She says the U.S. military at first admitted to an accident. But now, she says, they are not even doing that. "What do the Americans want to hide?" she asks.

She says it is unclear to her whether they want to guarantee impunity to their soldiers or if there is something else. Ms. Sgrena says that without a doubt the report represents a slap in the face to the Italians who clearly do not accept this conclusion and she calls for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq.

An Italian military plane is bringing the Toyota in which the intelligence officer was traveling before he was killed, back to Rome on Tuesday. The car is expected to be examined by ballistics experts, in an effort to reconstruct how the shooting took place that night. Italy has been asking to examine the car since the incident occurred.