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08 March 2005

Probe Ordered in Shooting of Italian Intelligence Agent

U.S. military investigators have asked Italians to participate

Washington -- An investigation is being conducted into a checkpoint shooting incident March 4 near Baghdad, Iraq, that left an Italian intelligence officer dead and two other Italian civilians wounded, the coalition military commander in Iraq says.

At a March 8 Pentagon briefing, Army General George W. Casey Jr., who commands Multi-National Force-Iraq, said Brigadier General Peter Vangjel has been appointed to investigate the incident. The investigation is expected to take approximately three to four weeks to complete.

The shooting occurred as Italian intelligence officers were taking a recently released hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena, to the Baghdad airport for a flight to Rome.  Sgrena was kidnapped a month ago, and Italian officials had just secured her release.

According to Casey's headquarters, U.S. forces fired upon a vehicle that was approaching a coalition checkpoint on the road to Baghdad International Airport early on the night of March 4.  Sgrena and an Italian intelligence officer riding in the vehicle were wounded; another intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari, was killed.

Coalition medical personnel treated Sgrena and the other Italian intelligence officer before sending them on to Rome.  Casey said Multi-National Force-Iraq has extended its deepest sympathies to Calipari's family.

Casey added that until Vangjel completes his investigation, he could not offer further details.

Multi-National Force headquarters said its subordinate command, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, has assembled a team led by Vangjel to conduct a follow-on investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"The command is working closely with the U.S. embassy and Italian officials have been invited to participate," Casey's headquarters said in a statement released March 8.

Appointing an investigating officer and team to examine the evidence and facts surrounding such a serious incident is standard military procedure.  The commanding general, by military regulation, is normally not permitted to discuss a case until the initial inquires are completed.

In an unrelated case, another U.S. investigation has begun into an incident involving a Bulgarian soldier who was killed in an apparent friendly fire incident, Casey said.