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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 14:42 GMT
Freed Italian hostage back home
Giuliana Sgrena stepping off the plane in Rome
Giuliana Sgrena is a veteran war correspondent
Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena has arrived in Rome a day after being rescued from her Iraqi kidnappers - and wounded by US gunfire in Baghdad.

Ms Sgrena looked weak as she got off the plane before heading by ambulance to a military hospital in Rome.

She told Italian radio of the "rain of fire" on her car, which she said was not going particularly fast.

The US military has said soldiers fired at the car after its occupants ignored requests to stop at a checkpoint.

US President George W Bush has pledged to fully investigate the shooting, in which an Italian security agent died.

Ms Sgrena was abducted on 4 February. It is unclear how she was released.

Some Italian press reports say a ransom was paid.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of President Bush's staunchest allies, held an hour-long meeting with the US ambassador in Rome on Friday after demanding to know why US troops at a checkpoint fired on the car carrying Ms Sgrena to safety.

No celebration

The prime minister and other dignitaries joined family members to welcome Ms Sgrena to Rome's Ciampino airport.

Walking slowly and with some help, Ms Sgrena made no comment as she went into the ambulance.

She is expected to undergo further surgery for shoulder injuries she received in the shooting incident.

She's been tested, but she's alive
Franco Sgrena

"Giuliana is relatively well," Ms Sgrena's partner, Pier Scolari, told Italian news agency Ansa.

Her father said Ms Sgrena had "been tested, but she's alive".

Gabriele Polo, head of Sgrena's left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto met her on the plane and said she was "physically exhausted".

"But she is happy, of course she was happy to be back home."

The reporter told her colleagues that her captors "never treated me badly", Ansa said.

Il Manifesto says a peace rally will be held in Rome later on Saturday - in lieu of what would have been a celebration of her release.

The death of one of Italy's most senior intelligence officers in the shooting, Nicola Calipari, cast a pall of gloom over what should have been a joyous occasion, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Mr Calipari is being portrayed as a national hero in Saturday's Italian press for his courage in saving Ms Sgrena's life by shielding her with his body.

Diplomatic incident

This is a serious diplomatic incident between the US and Italy, our correspondent says.

"The prime minister expects that, in the spirit of the particular friendship that characterises relations between Italy and the United States, the US government leaves no stone unturned to shed light on what happened," said a statement from Mr Berlusconi's office.

President Bush has telephoned Mr Berlusconi to offer his condolences and apologies.

He "assured Prime Minister Berlusconi that it would be fully investigated," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Colleagues of Giuliana Sgrena celebrate after learning of her release.
Ms Sgrena's colleagues cheered the initial news of her release
On Friday evening, the car carrying Giuliana Sgrena and three Italian security agents towards the airport came under fire as it approached a checkpoint in western Baghdad.

US military officials in Baghdad say troops tried to stop the speeding car - making hand signals, flashing lights and firing warning shots - before firing at the vehicle's engine.

A little-known militant group, Islamic Jihad Organisation, had said it kidnapped Giuliana Sgrena and demanded that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq.

The same group said in September it had killed two Italian aid workers, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari - but they were later released by another organisation.

Italy demands US take responsibility

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