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Italian report queries US claims

BBC | May 3, 2005

Italy has published a report into the shooting of a secret agent by US troops at a roadblock in Iraq, which conflicts with the US version of events. The report blames the troops' stress and inexperience, and says the US authorities should have signalled that there was a checkpoint on the road.
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US Scrambles to Cover-up Botched Assassination

But it adds that it was difficult to pinpoint individual responsibility for Nicola Calipari's 4 March shooting.

Calipari was killed as he escorted hostage Giuliana Sgrena to freedom.

The Italian foreign ministry delayed the release of the 52-page report, and it was given to senior Italian officials and to US ambassador Mel Sembler ahead of publication.

Disputed circumstances

The report, published on the Italian intelligence services' website, says that the roadblock from which Calipari was shot was set up ineptly and there were no signals indicating its presence.

"It is likely that the state of tension stemming from the conditions of time, circumstances and place, as well as possibly some degree of inexperience and stress might have led some soldiers to instinctive and little-controlled reactions," the report said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

It denied the US assertion that their military command in Baghdad was unaware of the Italian mission to secure the hostage's release, pointing out that the Italians had been allocated secure accommodation in an American-controlled area.

It said that the Italian car had been travelling at 40-50km/h, while the American version said it was going at about twice that speed.

The Italian report described the US soldiers' description of the car's speed as "emotionally biased".

Observers say that following the report from the US military's investigation panel, relations between the two countries have deteriorated considerably.

The findings in the US report were heavily censored, with large blocks of the text blacked out when it was published.

However, a university student in Italy claims he was able to remove the censored parts using his computer and has passed a seemingly full US report to Italy's media.

Details of personnel

The Bologna student, after surfing the web on Sunday, found he could restore censored portions of the 40-page US report with a couple of clicks of his computer mouse.

He passed the details to Italian newspapers, which put out the full text on their websites.

The apparently full text contains a few details that US authorities would have preferred to remain secret - such as the names and ranks of the US military personnel involved in Calipari's death - the BBC's David Willey says from Rome.

Our correspondent adds that the censored material also includes embarrassing details about communication failures and reveals the rules of engagement at checkpoints.

The US invited two Italians to join in their inquiry, but the Italian representatives protested at what they claimed was lack of objectivity in presenting the evidence and returned to Rome.

It is their dissenting report which has now been published.

 

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