Italian Was Killed by Special Security Detail
American troops who fatally shot an Italian intelligence agent last week on the road to Baghdad’s airport were part of extra security provided by the Army to protect U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte, a U.S. official said Thursday.
Italian operative Nicola Calipari was killed Friday when U.S. troops opened fire on a car carrying him and Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been freed by insurgents.
“The mobile patrol was there to enhance security because Ambassador Negroponte was expected through,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert J. Callahan said, confirming reports in Italian media.
The newspaper La Repubblica reported Wednesday that the checkpoint had been “set up to protect the passage of Ambassador Negroponte.”
It was not known whether Negroponte, who was nominated last month by President Bush to be the new director of national intelligence, had already passed by.
The shooting occurred at 8:55 p.m., about two hours before Baghdad’s 11 p.m. curfew. No civilian cars are allowed on Baghdad’s streets after curfew.
Senior U.S. officials such as the ambassador, who is considered the most important American in Iraq, normally travel by helicopter to avoid the frequent bombings and other attacks along the airport road. U.S. officials often vary travel routes and methods in Iraq.
The Army is investigating the shooting, which has become a point of contention between the United States and Italy.
In Rome, prosecutors questioned Sgrena in a military hospital, where she has been recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the shooting.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Sgrena have disputed the Army’s version of events, including a claim that the car was speeding and ignored signals to stop.
The Army has acknowledged that the checkpoint was temporary but has given no details about why it was set up. The day after the shooting, Lt. Col. Clifford Kenta, a spokesman for the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, said the checkpoint was not permanent.
Berlusconi told lawmakers Wednesday that Calipari had informed an Italian liaison officer, waiting at the airport along with an American officer, that he was headed there with a freed hostage.
Berlusconi said the car had been traveling slowly and stopped immediately when a light was flashed at a checkpoint, before troops opened fire.
The top U.S. military officer in Iraq, Army Gen. George W. Casey, has said he had no indication that Italian officials gave notice of the route the Italians were taking. In a statement released after the shooting, the 3rd Infantry Division said the vehicle had been speeding and refused to stop.