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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 18:38 GMT
Sgrena operation 'kept from US'
Nicola Calipari
Nicola Calipari died protecting freed journalist Giuliana Sgrena
US forces might not have known that slain Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari was in Iraq to secure a hostage's freedom, Italian papers say.

Calipari was killed by US troops' fire while escorting journalist Giuliana Sgrena by car to Baghdad airport.

But the press quotes an Italian general who liaised between US forces and Italian intelligence as saying he did not know Calipari was on a rescue bid.

His report is now in the hands of Rome prosecutors investigating the killing.

According to newspaper La Repubblica, Gen Mario Marioli helped the two Italian secret service agents obtain a special badge from the coalition forces on their arrival in Baghdad.

But Gen Marioli, who is the coalition forces' second-in-command, reportedly was unaware that the officers were on a mission to free Ms Sgrena, and so the information he passed on to US officials was incomplete.

Fatal coincidence

Gen Marioli's testimony is crucial because he is the man who was keeping the US forces informed of the car's arrival before the fatal shooting, in which a US patrol killed the secret service agent and injured Ms Sgrena and a second officer.

Gen Marioli's version, as reported by the papers, also contradicts a reconstruction by the Italian government and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who said the US military had been advised that Ms Sgrena was on board the car.

The US military have said they had no knowledge of the rescue mission.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the US had set up makeshift checkpoints along the road to the airport the night of the fatal shooting because the outgoing US ambassador, John Negroponte, was travelling on the same road.

Italian media have been speculating that Italy might have deliberately kept the mission wrapped in secrecy because the US did not approve of the ongoing negotiations with the kidnappers.

The US-led coalition has launched an investigation into the shooting with the participation of Italian officials.

The inquiry is led by Gen Peter Vangjel, and is expected to take up to four weeks.

Nicola Calipari's death has provoked outrage in Italy


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