Saturday, March 05, 2005

We Said / She Said 

Kidnapped Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was yesterday released by her captors, then wounded by American fire on her way to the Baghdad airport, contradicts the official U.S. line that her car was "speeding as it approached a checkpoint" and that "soldiers shot into the engine block only after trying to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots":
"We thought the danger was over after my release to the Italians but all of a sudden there was this shoot-out, we were hit by a barrage of bullets," she told RAI TV by telephone.

Nicola Calipari, the senior secret service agent who had worked for her release, was telling her about what had been going on in Italy since her capture when the shooting started.

"He leaned over me, probably to protect me, and then he slumped down, and I saw he was dead," said Sgrena.

The US military said its forces fired because the car was speeding towards their checkpoint.

But in comments reported by ANSA news agency, Sgrena told Rome investigating magistrates during a debriefing that the car was not going fast and there was no real checkpoint.

"The firing was not justified by the speed of our car," she reportedly said, adding it was travelling at a "regular" speed.

"It wasn't a checkpoint, but a patrol which shot as soon as it had lit us up with a spotlight. We had no idea where the shots were coming from."

Doctors said Sgrena was in stable condition after suffering a gunshot wound to her left shoulder, fracturing a bone and causing bruising to a lung.
Various overseas papers have reported accusations by Sgrena's gentleman friend Pier Scolari that the attack on her car was a deliberate ambush:
As Scolari was leaving the military hospital in Rome where the journalist is being treated he insisted that both the Americans and the Italians were well aware that she was travelling on that particular route to the airport.

Scolari went on to say that the shootings were deliberate. "They were 700 meters from the airport which means that they had passed all checkpoints," he stated adding, "Giuliana had information, and the US military did not want her to survive."

Scolari added, "(the) last 24 hours have been hell with the murderous attack of the armored Americans who shot 300-400 rounds against her car, without reason" . . . .

Scolari went on to state that during the attack on Sgrena's convoy, officials from the office of the Italian prime minister were in constant phone contact with the secrect service agents who were escorting the freed journalist. Soon after the car began being bombarded with bullets, phone contact was cut off.
The editor of Il Manifesto, meanwhile, is calling the death of Nicola Calipari a homicide; Italian papers are warning Berlusconi against a coverup; Reporters Without Borders has petitioned the UN to conduct a full inquiry. If you're interested in reading some of the Italian press coverage, a Daily Kos diarist named Gilgamesh has been providing rough-and-ready on-the-fly translations here -- including this Scolari quote from L'Unita:
The Americans shut down the cell phones of our agents who were with Giuliana. They shut them off while they [the agents] were speaking with Silvio Berlusconi, they prevented the emergency medical technicians from approaching the wounded," Scolari recounts, basing himself on the eyewitness testimony of the Italian secret service agents at the scene. But how is it possible that all this was allowed to happen?"

In that moment I shouted at the premier [Berlusconi] that your war is to blame for this. This war is madness and these are the results that it produces.
According to Gilgamesh, certain Italian officials are now blaming the attack on a massive breakdown of communications: "the Italian intel services did not inform either the Iraqis or the US military people because,he suggests, they were afraid that the Irqai goverment would interfere and botch the delicate negotiations then takling place for the release of Giuliana." (Warning: there's plenty of useful information in both the main post and the comments, but to get to it, you will have to scroll past some remarkably insipid bickering about proper "diary etiquette.")

President Bush has promised the usual full investigation.

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