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U.S. bars Italians from examining victim’s car

Associated Press | March 23, 2005

ROME — The U.S. military command in Iraq has blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car in which an Italian intelligence agent was shot to death in Baghdad, a newspaper said Wednesday.

Corriere della Sera said that the policemen were about to leave when the Italian Embassy in Baghdad received an order from the U.S. command on Monday to abort the mission for security concerns.

The embassy in Baghdad reportedly alerted Rome authorities, who called off the trip.

The car, a Toyota Corolla, is reportedly still in American hands, at Baghdad airport where it was originally rented.

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The Foreign Ministry in Rome declined comment on the report, while officials at the Italian Embassy in Baghdad could not immediately be reached. The U.S. military in Baghdad had no immediate comment.

Italian authorities say that examining the vehicle is key to assessing what happened on March 4, when U.S. troops opened fire on the car carrying secret service agent Nicola Calipari, another intelligence officer and journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released after a month of captivity in Iraq.

Calipari died on the spot, while the other two were wounded.

Prosecutors investigating the shooting have received photographs of the car, but they want to analyze bullet holes and other elements, according to Corriere.

Calipari’s killing outraged Italians and prompted Premier Silvio Berlusconi to demand that Washington provide an explanation. Italy agrees that the shooting was an accident but disputes some key elements of the U.S. account.

The U.S. military said that the vehicle was speeding and refused to stop, and that a U.S. patrol tried to warn the driver with hand and arm signals, by flashing white lights and firing shots in front of the car and into the car’s engine block.

Berlusconi said the car was traveling slowly at night and stopped immediately when a light was flashed at it, shortly before U.S. troops fired on the car. Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said the fire appeared to have hit the right side of the car.

Vowing to shed light on the incident, Washington has ordered an investigation into the shooting, to be led by a U.S. brigadier general with the participation of Italian officials. The joint commission is expected to release its findings by mid-April.

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