U.S. Clears Soldiers in Italian Agent's Iraq Death

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. investigators have found that American troops who shot dead an Italian agent after he secured the release of an abducted journalist did nothing wrong and will not be disciplined, an Army official said on Monday.

But Italy disagrees with findings in the preliminary report by the U.S. military investigators and has balked at endorsing it, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. troops accidentally killed Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari when they opened fire on a car heading for Baghdad airport in which he was escorting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released.

The friendly fire incident has caused tension between the United States and Italy, one of Washington's staunchest allies in Iraq. Calipari, hailed as an Italian national hero, was fatally wounded as he threw his body over Sgrena to protect her from a hail of bullets.

Sgrena, an award-winning journalist, was held hostage by insurgents for a month before Calipari masterminded her release. She was wounded but survived.

The Army official said Italy was disputing two factual issues in the report: the car's speed as it approached the checkpoint; and the nature of communications between the Italians and U.S. forces before the incident.

"The soldiers were only complying with the standard operating procedures for those checkpoints, so therefore are not culpable to dereliction of duty (charges)," the Army official said.

No comments: