- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

BAGHDAD — The U.S. Army has cleared American soldiers in the death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq and recommended no disciplinary action following an investigation, according to a report released yesterday.

The investigation concluded that the killing may well have been prevented by better coordination between Italian and U.S. forces in Iraq.

Nicola Calipari was mistakenly shot on March 4 soon after he had secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi militants who had held her hostage for a month. U.S. soldiers fired on the Italians’ vehicle as it approached a U.S. checkpoint near Baghdad’s airport. Miss Sgrena and another Italian agent were wounded.

The U.S. investigation concluded the vehicle had failed to slow down as it approached the checkpoint and the soldiers who fired at it had acted in accordance with the rules of engagement.

The killing outraged Italians, who consider Mr. Calipari a national hero, and caused friction in U.S.-Italian relations.

“This was a tragic accident,” investigating officer Brig. Gen. Peter Vangjel said in a statement expressing “deepest sympathies” to the agent’s family.

The U.S. report found Italy had not informed U.S. forces of the rescue mission, adding “prior coordination might have prevented this tragedy.”

Lt. Gen. John Vines, one of the top two commanders of U.S. forces in Iraq, has approved Gen. Vangjel’s recommendation that no disciplinary action be taken against any soldier in the incident, the statement said.

Large sections of the report were blacked out in the version released to the press yesterday.

U.S. and Italian experts had worked for more than a month on a joint investigation into the killing. But from the start, testimony from the two Italian survivors clashed with the U.S. military’s account.

The Americans maintain that soldiers fired warning shots into the air, then shot at the engine block because the car was speeding. The survivors insist they saw the beam of a warning light virtually at the same time gunfire broke out. The surviving intelligence agent has testified he was driving slowly.

Italy and the United States said Friday they had failed to agree on the circumstances of the shooting and each side would release its own version of events. The Italian experts were still writing up their report, which is expected to take a few days, a Foreign Ministry official said in Rome.

The ministry had no comment on the American report. But on Friday, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said the U.S. and Italy could not agree on what had happened.

“The Italian government could not sign off a reconstruction of events that, in our opinion, does not capture 100 percent what happened,” he said.

Italy has launched a criminal inquiry into Mr. Calipari’s death.

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