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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Iraq death car arrives in Italy
US troops in Iraq load up car believed to be the one fired upon
Bullet marks may help clarify what happened
The car in which an Italian secret agent died shielding a hostage from US "friendly fire" in Iraq has arrived in Italy for investigators to inspect.

An Italian air force cargo plane delivered the Toyota Corolla to a base near Rome days after reports suggested America had cleared its soldiers.

Rome is still investigating the death of agent Nicola Calipari, who died as his car approached a US checkpoint.

Ex-hostage Giuliana Sgrena called the reported findings a "slap in the face".

We are not willing to sacrifice the truth about Nicola Calipari's death on the altar of political and diplomatic relations with our American ally
La Stampa
Italian newspaper

Prosecutors are due to examine the car at the Practica di Mare air base, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Testimony from Ms Sgrena, a journalist for communist newspaper Il Manifesto, and a second intelligence agent who also survived, appears to conflict with what US soldiers said about the shooting.

Analysis of bullet damage to the vehicle is expected to provide key data on how close the soldiers were to the car and from what angle they fired.

The Italians had been heading for Baghdad airport after Ms Sgrena's liberation.

'Insult'

Pentagon officials are hoping for a joint report into Calipari's death but they had to acknowledge on Tuesday that Italian prosecutors had not completed their investigation.

DIFFERING ACCOUNTS
Italian agent Nicola Calipari, shot dead by US troops in Iraq
US military: Car approaches checkpoint at high speed
Troops attempt to tell driver to stop with arm signals, lights and warning shots
Soldiers shoot into engine

Italian government: Italy makes all necessary contacts with the US for safe passage
The driver stops immediately when a light flashes 10m away
At the same time, shots are fired into car for 10-15 seconds

Reports that US investigators had found their troops "not culpable" caused outrage in Italy.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologised to parliament for the "unfortunate leak" suggesting the investigation was over.

For Giuliana Sgrena, freed on 4 March with Calipari's help after being held for a month by Iraqi militants, the leaked US findings were "incredible".

"The greatest disappointment would be if our authorities were to accept this insult without reacting," she said.

"All the words said about Calipari would turn into hypocrisy... and Nicola would have been our government's hero just for one day."

Public anger was echoed in the Italian press with La Stampa writing: "We are not willing to sacrifice the truth about Nicola Calipari's death on the altar of political and diplomatic relations with our American ally."

'Absurd' allegation

The US army has said the car was speeding as it approached a temporary checkpoint in western Baghdad.

Giuliana Sgrena in Rome on 26 April
Sgrena maintains that no warning was given before the shooting

Soldiers reportedly used "hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and firing warning shots" to get the driver to stop.

But Ms Sgrena, who was hurt in the incident, said the car had not been speeding and that there had been no warning before the troops opened fire.

The US military said it had had no knowledge of the rescue mission, dismissing as "absurd" Ms Sgrena's suggestion that her car was deliberately targeted.

Just after the incident, she said it was possible the soldiers had targeted her because Washington opposed the policy of negotiating with kidnappers.

"The soldiers were only complying with the standard operating procedures for those checkpoints, so therefore are not culpable to dereliction of duty [charges]," an anonymous US army official told news agencies on Monday.

"Everybody feels terrible about it," he said.




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