AP reported Monday that an editor at the Il Manifesto says Italian officials told him 300-400 rounds were fired at the car carrying Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena Friday night near Baghdad airport in the incident in which Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari lost his life protecting the just-liberated ex-hostage.[1]  --  Ignoring eyewitness testimony, both the Washington Post and the New York Times insisted the incident had occurred at a "security checkpoint."  --  The Post called the incident a "deadly shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops at a checkpoint," and dedicated a front-page story to the disasters that the shoot-first-ask-questions-aftewards policy has produced in Iraq.[2]  --  The Post said that according to "a military source," "U.S. soldiers had established an impromptu evening checkpoint at the entrance to the road about 90 minutes earlier and had stopped other vehicles.  They knew a high-level embassy official would be moving to the airport on that road, and their aim was to support this movement."  --  The account in Monday's New York Times hinted that Italians' contradictions of the official U.S. account of the incident were politically motivated.[3] ...



By Angela Doland

Associated Press
March 7, 2005


ROME -- Left-wing journalist Giuliana Sgrena claimed American soldiers gave no warning before they opened fire and said Sunday she could not rule out that U.S. forces intentionally shot at the car carrying her to the Baghdad airport, wounding her and killing the Italian agent who had just won her freedom after a month in captivity.

An Italian Cabinet member urged Sgrena, who writes for a Communist newspaper that routinely opposes U.S. policy in Iraq, to be cautious in her accounts and said the shooting would not affect Italy's support for the Bush administration.

The White House called the shooting a "horrific accident" and restated its promise to investigate fully.

Sgrena's editor at the daily Il Manifesto, Gabriele Polo, said Italian officials told him 300-400 rounds were fired at the car.

Italian military officials said two other intelligence agents were wounded in the shooting; U.S. officials said only one other agent was hurt.

Without backing up the claim, Sgrena said she believed it was possible she was targeted because the United States objected to methods used to secure her release.

"The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known," the 56-year-old journalist told Sky TG24 television by telephone. . . . So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target."

Sgrena said she knew nothing about a ransom payment, and no details have emerged about how authorities won her release, but an Italian Cabinet minister said money probably changed hands.

U.S. officials object to ransom payments or negotiation with kidnappers, claiming that only encourages further hostage-taking.

At least 10,000 people lined up in the rain to pay their respects to Nicola Calipari, the agent who died trying to shield Sgrena.

Draped in an Italian flag, his casket lay in state at Rome's Vittoriano national monument, which houses the tomb of Italy's unknown soldier.

A state funeral was planned for today.

Calipari has been awarded the gold medal of valor posthumously.

Calipari was struck in the temple by a single round and died instantly, the ANSA news agency reported, quoting doctors who did an autopsy.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Sunday the shootings were a "horrific accident," saying President Bush called Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to offer condolences and promise a full investigation.

The U.S. military has said the car Sgrena was riding in was speeding and Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and warning shots to get it to stop at the roadblock.

But in an interview with Italian La 7 TV, Sgrena said, "There was no bright light, no signal." She also said the car was traveling at "regular speed."



National Security


By R. Jeffrey Smith and Ann Scott Tyson

Washinton Post
March 7, 2005
Page A01


The deadly shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops at a checkpoint near Baghdad on Friday was one of many incidents in which civilians have been killed by mistake at checkpoints in Iraq, including local police officers, women and children, according to military records, U.S. officials and human rights groups.

U.S. soldiers have fired on the occupants of many cars approaching their positions over the past year and a half, only to discover that the people they killed were not suicide bombers or attackers but Iraqi civilians. They did so while operating under rules of engagement that the military has classified and under a legal doctrine that grants U.S. troops immunity from civil liability for misjudgment.

Human rights groups have complained that the military's rules of engagement for handling local citizens at checkpoints are too permissive. The groups have accused U.S. forces of making inadequate efforts to safeguard civilians and to comply with laws of war that prohibit the use of excessive or indiscriminate force and permit deadly action only when soldiers' lives are clearly threatened.

The military has responded that in a time of widespread suicide bombings, precautions that troops take to protect themselves are fully justified.

But the circumstances of Friday's shooting of Italian military intelligence officer Nicola Calipari made it particularly vulnerable to calamity, a military source said as he divulged new details of how the car in which Calipari and a newly freed hostage, Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, came to be attacked.

The automobile was traversing onto a route -- the road to the airport -- where soldiers have been killed in shootings and by roadside bombs. U.S. soldiers had established an impromptu evening checkpoint at the entrance to the road about 90 minutes earlier and had stopped other vehicles. They knew a high-level embassy official would be moving to the airport on that road, and their aim was to support this movement.

But no specific coordination occurred between those involved in Sgrena's rescue and the military unit responsible for the checkpoint, according to the source, who said he cannot be named because the military's investigation into the incident is continuing.

Soldiers at the checkpoint have told U.S. military officers that they flashed lights, used hand signals and fired warning shots in an effort to stop the car, which they believed was traveling at more than 50 mph, a typical speed for that road. But Sgrena, who had just been released by Iraqi captors, recalled later that the car was not traveling very fast and that soldiers started firing "right after lighting" a spotlight -- a decision she said was not justified. Sgrena was wounded by shrapnel in the U.S. barrage.

The absence of advance communication between the Italians and the U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint appears to have put the occupants of the car in grave jeopardy, given what many U.S. officials describe as the military's standard practice of firing at onrushing cars from their checkpoints in Iraq.

"In my view, the main contributing factor was a lack of prior coordination with the ground unit," the source said. "If requested, we would have resourced and supported this mission very differently."

Military officials in Iraq have said for two days that they cannot answer questions about U.S. rules of engagement because of a need to keep insurgents off guard. Officials have not said whether these rules have changed since the insurgency in Iraq worsened in late 2003. They also have declined to estimate how many civilians such as Calipari have been killed accidentally by U.S. forces -- at checkpoints or elsewhere in Iraq.

But Army documents indicate that the 3rd Infantry Division -- the military unit that includes the troops responsible for shooting Calipari -- was involved in other shootings of civilians at checkpoints. In April 2004, Army criminal investigators asked a sergeant serving in the division if he and his fellow soldiers had shot at women and children in cars, and the soldier answered, "Yes." Asked why, he replied, "They didn't respond to the signs [we gave], the presence of troops or warning shots."

The soldier, whose name was redacted in documents released by the Army on Friday in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, went on to say: "We fired warning shots at everyone, they would speed up to come at us, and we would shoot them. You couldn't tell who was in the car from where we were, we found that out later. . . . We didn't go through the cars digging around for stuff, we would just look in and see they were dead and could see there were women inside."

Another member of the division told investigators that he also saw women and children shot while approaching checkpoints.

"Basically, we were at a checkpoint, we had two Arabic signs that said to turn around or be shot. Once [they passed] . . . the first sign, they fired a warning shot. If they passed the second sign, they shot the vehicle. Sometimes there would be women and children in the car, but usually it was soldiers."

"Sometimes it bothers me," the man said. "What if they couldn't read the signs? But then what if they had a bomb in the car? We fired warning shots and they kept coming, so I think we did the right thing." A third man in the unit separately told investigators that a colleague shot his weapon at "a hostile vehicle and it missed and hit a truck behind it, which housed a group of people."

The Army's investigation was begun after assertions that the unit had committed multiple war crimes and fired indiscriminately at civilians in 2003, but investigators concluded last July that there "was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove" allegations of wrongdoing. They said women and children had indeed been shot near checkpoints, but on a presumption -- which turned out to be wrong -- that they were combatants. The Army decided the soldiers who fired would be held blameless.

A senior official of the U.S.-led military task force in Iraq, briefing reporters in August on the issue of compensation for damages to Iraqis and wrongful killings, spelled out the legal basis for this position. He said that "when an individual approaches a checkpoint" and is fired upon, "that is a combat activity of United States forces" and thus is excluded from civil liability or compensation under U.S. law that grants up to $15,000 per incident.

U.S. officials say that in those cases in which some U.S. payment has been made, it comes from money allocated to field commanders for "sympathy payments" of as much as $2,500 per incident or killed victim. The family of the Italian officer killed Friday has no standing to seek legal redress.

Human Rights Watch published a lengthy report on civilian casualties in Iraq in October 2003, which detailed incidents in which 11 Iraqis died at checkpoints manned by other U.S. units -- including two policemen in an unmarked car in hot pursuit of suspected terrorists. The group called for more efforts to warn of checkpoint dangers, including the use of better signs and lights, more interpreters, and a public education campaign. News accounts have detailed at least 14 other deaths of civilians at checkpoints.

The group also reprinted excerpts from an Army task force's internal study that described its soldiers as untrained and unprepared to conduct checkpoint operations. The study asked: "How does the soldier know exactly what the rule of engagement is" when shifting from combat to policing? "Soldiers who have just conducted combat against dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes have difficulty trusting dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes."

Nicole Choueiry, spokeswoman on the Middle East region at Amnesty International in London, said the shooting of Calipari "is not the first incident. It came to light because she [Sgrena] is a journalist. We have heard of many incidents involving the deaths of civilians in unclear situations."

She said that although "U.S. troops have a duty to protect themselves, this must not be done at the expense of civilians and it should be done within the rules of law."

She said that the main purpose of the occupation is to protect civilians, not place them in jeopardy, and that her group "calls again on the U.S. and multinational troops in Iraq to clarify their rules of engagement and to give assurances that the international law which governs armed conflict situations is not broken."

Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, responded that checkpoints are extremely dangerous and that because of the threat of bombs, "plus insurgents driving by and shooting, the troops have to maintain a constant level of awareness. It's a pretty scary situation to have a vehicle bearing down on you." He said that military convoys must have prior military clearance but that he was not sure about diplomatic convoys.

--Researcher Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.




By Ian Fisher

New York Times
March 7, 2005


ROME -- Most Italians have never supported the war in Iraq, nor liked having their troops there. But their misgivings found a physical form on Sunday, in the shape of a coffin lying in state and holding the body of an Italian intelligence officer killed in Iraq -- by an American bullet.

"There is something behind all this," Marta Belziti, 31, a distant relative of the dead intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, said as she left the white marble of the Vittoriano monument in Rome, where thousands of Italians paid their respects to Mr. Calipari's body and his widow. "The Americans aren't telling the truth."

Mr. Calipari was killed on Friday in Baghdad while working to put to a happy end to the kidnapping of Giuliana Sgrena, 56, an Italian journalist whose plight has gripped Italy since she was abducted a month ago. Soon after she was released, to Mr. Calipari and other Italian officials, the car came under fire from American soldiers near a security checkpoint as they drove to Baghdad International Airport to take her home.

Mr. Calipari was killed -- instantly, with a shot to the head, according to an autopsy report -- as he shielded Ms. Sgrena from the bullets. She was wounded by shrapnel in her left shoulder.

"The driver began screaming that we were Italians," Ms. Sgrena wrote on Sunday in the far left newspaper Il Manifesto where she works. "Nicola Calipari threw himself on top of me to protect me, and right away -- I repeat, right away -- I heard his last breath before he died on top of me."

American officials have said the car ignored repeated warnings to stop, an account rejected by Ms. Sgrena and Italian officials. While few experts believe that the episode will lead to the immediate withdrawal of Italy's 3,000 troops in Iraq, the murkiness of the details about the shooting seem to be stoking anger here about Italy's role in the war. Absent a more complete American explanation, pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seems likely to mount.

On Sunday, Ms. Sgrena went so far as to say she believed that American soldiers might have deliberately shot at the car, out of anger that Italy had reportedly paid a ransom to secure her release. One Italian minister said it was "very likely" a ransom had been paid, and Italian newspapers reported sums up to $10 million.

"The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known," Ms. Sgrena said in a telephone interview with Sky TG24 television. "The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target."

In a later interview, Reuters reported, Ms. Sgrena, who said she did not know whether any ransom had been paid, softened her accusation somewhat. But Italian politicians, starting with Mr. Berlusconi, are demanding a quick and convincing explanation from Washington.

"I am waiting for the United States to clear up this painful and tragic episode," President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi told reporters on Saturday.

American officials say that the car carrying Ms. Sgrena had been speeding toward a military checkpoint along the airport road, the site of regular attacks against both military and civilian vehicles, and that it had ignored warnings in the form of hard signals, flashing lights and warning shots.

Ms. Sgrena, along with Italian officials quoted in newspapers here, challenged that version. "There was no bright light, no signal," she said in an interview with La 7 TV in Italy, adding that the car was not speeding.

In an indication of the political sensitivities here, several Bush administration officials have called the Italian authorities to express their condolences regarding Mr. Calipari's death, and these included a call from Mr. Bush to Mr. Berlusconi on Friday.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Sunday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had called his Italian counterpart, Defense Minister Antonio Martino, over the weekend to express his condolences. The Italian Defense Ministry said Mr. Rumsfeld had expressed "the sorrow of the American administration, and his own personal sorrow for the death of Nicola Calipari."

The Pentagon has pledged a thorough investigation of the shooting.

The political repercussions of the shooting are uncertain, with much depending, political analysts and politicians say, on how the United States answers the many questions here.

Sergio Romano, a former Italian ambassador to NATO and columnist with the influential newspaper Corriere della Sera, said the episode might nonetheless harden the desire for Mr. Berlusconi to move slowly toward a concrete withdrawal plan, especially given that Italy holds general elections in the spring of 2006.

"I think Berlusconi would want to have begun the withdrawal, at least, if not completed it," by the elections, Mr. Romano said.

Mr. Calipari will be buried in a state funeral on Monday.