AP file
U.S. military personnel are seen near a car said to be that in which Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was traveling with slain Italian agent Nicola Calipari, in this photo released March 8 by the Italian RAI national television network.
updated 5/2/2005 6:49:16 PM ET 2005-05-02T22:49:16

Italian investigators blamed U.S. military authorities for failing to signal there was a checkpoint ahead on the Baghdad road where American soldiers killed an Italian agent, and concluded that stress, inexperience and fatigue played a role in the shooting, according to a report released Monday.

The probe found no evidence that the March 4 killing of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari was deliberate.

The Italians challenged the American contentions that the car was traveling more than 50 mph, saying it was going half that speed. But, despite their refusal to sign off on the U.S. report that the soldiers bore no blame for the death, the Italian investigators didn’t object to many of the American findings of fact.

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

'Inexperience and stress'
“It is likely that the state of tension stemming from the conditions of time, circumstances and place, as well as possibly some degree of inexperience and stress might have led some soldiers to instinctive and little-controlled reactions,” said Italy’s report.

U.S. investigators, in their report made public Saturday, said the American soldiers gave adequate warning, beaming a light and firing warning shots, as the car traveled toward Baghdad’s airport. They cleared the U.S. soldiers of any wrongdoing, sparking outrage in Italy, where Calipari had been hailed as a hero.

The Italian report, written by two experts who had participated in the joint probe, said no measures were taken by U.S. officials to preserve the scene of the shooting. It said the car carrying Sgrena and the agents was removed before its position was marked, for example. The soldiers’ vehicles also were moved.

“That made it impossible to technically reconstruct the event, to determine the exact position of the vehicles and measure the distances, and to obtain precise data defining the precise trajectory of the bullets, the speed of the car and the stopping distance,” the report said.

Public differences
Italy and the United States have publicly differed over crucial points about the incident since the first hours after the shooting.

When several days of negotiations failed to yield a common report, both sides went their own way.

Italy is a main partner in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The approximately 3,000 Italian soldiers sent to Iraq for reconstruction constitute one of the coalition’s largest contingents.

But Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch American ally, has faced political fallout over the case, including calls to bring home Italy’s troops from Iraq.

There was no immediate comment from the Italian government on the report.

Berlusconi is scheduled to address both houses of parliament on the case Thursday.

U.S. soldiers identified by codes
The U.S. report contained many blacked-out portions, including the names of the soldiers at the checkpoint and their units. But due to an apparent error, what was blacked out in the report could be read on the Web site of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Some of the material that had been blacked out also discussed training for checkpoint duty and checkpoint procedures.

The U.S. military said it regretted the faulty posting.

“We need to improve our procedures. We regret this happened. We obviously didn’t take sufficient precautions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Donald Alston, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Baghdad. He added that some of the leaked information appeared classified.

The Italian report does not name American soldiers, identifying them by codes.

The Army National Guard soldiers in charge of the traffic-blocking position near Baghdad airport had been reassigned to patrol the airport road just two weeks before the shooting, according to U.S. officials.

Their unit previously had operated in Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, where their main mission was to conduct patrols in search of insurgents who had launched attacks on U.S. military bases.

U.S.: Troops trained on 'rules of engagement'
The U.S. investigation report on the incident said the soldiers had received training on what the military calls “rules of engagement,” defining how they respond to threats, as part of their deployment preparation at Fort Hood, Texas, and the National Training Center in California.

They were further trained upon arrival in Kuwait last fall, and in February they received refresher training on the rules of engagement, including a briefing on positive identification, which requires soldiers to have “reasonable certainty” that an object they attack is a legitimate military target.

The report makes clear that the soldiers were operating a traffic-blocking, rather than traffic-controlling, point. The difference is that the object of blocking traffic is to ensure than no vehicle proceed past a given point — in this case the onramp to the road leading to Baghdad airport.

Although they had training and experience in operating traffic control points, where cars are stopped and searched, the U.S. investigators said they found no evidence that the soldiers were trained to run blocking positions, prior to their arrival in Iraq. The soldiers “learned and practiced” how to run blocking positions from Feb. 5-15, after relocating from Taji.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments