U.S. forces have fired at a car carrying Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena shortly after her liberation, killing one Italian intelligence agent and wounding two others.
The just-freed journalist was later treated for a shrapnel wound in her shoulder at a U.S. military hospital.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has demanded an explanation from the United States. "The agent, Nicola Calipari covered Sgrena with his body, he was hit by a bullet which unfortunately was fatal," he said.
Berlusconi personally knew Calipari and the agent's wife worked in his Palazzo Chigi office. Calipari had worked on previous hostage release cases in Iraq "He was an extraordinary man," said Berlusconi.
Sgrena, was abducted while waiting outside a Baghdad mosque to interview refugees from the US-led assault on the city of Fallujah in November. She has worked for leftist Italian newspaper Il Manifesto since 1988. The paper is opposed to the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The kidnapping had already attracted much suspicion --as have other previous kidnappings of individuals hostile to US interests in Iraq. The circumstances of the shooting will do little to assauge those suspicions.
The US account of events is that a speeding car -which would not stop, had to be fired opon to halt it. But this account of the slain intelligence officer does not paint a picture of someone so inexperienced and inept as to attempt to run through a US checkpoint:
"Nicola Calipari was a veteran Italian secret service agent and practiced negotiator who had helped return two hostages kidnapped in Iraq home to their loved ones in Italy... Calipari, ...was a 20-year veteran of the police force, and before moving on to Italy’s secret services he had headed the immigration office for Rome’s police." [Source AP]Another account paints a similar picture. Calipari was an experienced professional:
One Italian source said he was an officer in the Italian special forces, but the Washington embassy spokesman affirmed that Calipari was what Berlusconi had said he was, a member of SISMI, the Italian military intelligence service. Last September Calipari was behind the freeing of the two social workers Simona Pari and Simona Torretta. In June he was at the center of another negotiation that resulted in three Italian workers in Iraq being set free by their Islamic captors. Sgrena was kidnapped outside a mosque on Feb 4.Some suspect that Sgrena has specific information on US war crimes in Fallujah which could be damming if known internationally. Even without such evidence there are already clear signs that banned weapons were used by US forces. [See Our Article Fallujah's 9/11]
As in the earlier cases, the Italians appear to have secured the freedom of their nationals without using force, and sources said this was the result of having built a wide network of contacts that included people on the fringes of the Iraq insurgency. [Source UPI]
If the Italian intelligence agent who died shielding Sgrena had not courageously given his life, the outcome would have been the death of Sgrena and the injuring of the intelligence agents.
That would have made it look like she had been the primary target of a planned ambush. Which is precisely the conclusion many will reach. Especially those skeptical of mainstream media coverage on this spate of suspicious kidnappings in Iraq.
See our companion article:
Giuliana Sgrena :
Means, Motive and Murder
Just a day before she was freed an article on AL-AHRAM online weekly asked:
Is there more to the abduction of Italian journalist
Giuliana Sgrena than meets the eye?"
Samia Nkrumah, in Rome, reports
The secretary of the Rome-based National Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI), complains, "With so little information at hand, no one is saying that the Iraqi secret service is behind the latest kidnapping, but the nagging question as to who benefits from terrorising anti- occupation civilians persists"...
With the deteriorating security situation inside Iraq, the latest Italian hostages have been critics of the military occupation rather than employees in foreign companies. Enzo Baldoni another independent journalist who was killed while in capture was himself working on a Falluja story....
The question on everyone's lips is why are pacifist civilians kidnapped in Iraq? What sense is there in eliminating journalists who are known for publishing information that goes against the occupation?...
With so little information at hand, no one is saying that the Iraqi secret service is behind the latest kidnapping, but the nagging question as to who benefits from terrorising anti- occupation civilians persists.
Two recent developments are worth noting. Earlier in the year, Newsweek reported that the Pentagon is considering using the "Salvador Option" in reference to a counter-insurgency strategy of the 1980s which saw the CIA-train local secret forces to go after leftists insurgents and their sympathisers in the Central American country and which led to tens of thousands of deaths.
A few weeks ago, and of particular interest to Italy, researcher Daniele Ganser with the Centre for Security Studies at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich published a book on the NATO's Secret Armies after WWII. The research offers plenty of proof on how NATO and the secret services in various European countries collaborated in attacks on civilians that were blamed on left-wing groups. It was not till the early 1990s that a former Italian prime minister, Giulio Andreotti confirmed that the secret group, code- named Gladio, existed.
Ganser's book contains various documented confessions including this chilling statement by former Gladio member, a right-wing extremist who was convicted for his part in one fatal attack, "You had to attack civilians, people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security."