Italy prepares to honour intelligence officer

A state funeral for an Italian intelligence officer shot and killed by American troops in Iraq while escorting an ex-hostage to freedom was due to take place today, as a steady stream of shocked Italians viewed the man’s body lying in state in Rome.

A state funeral for an Italian intelligence officer shot and killed by American troops in Iraq while escorting an ex-hostage to freedom was due to take place today, as a steady stream of shocked Italians viewed the man’s body lying in state in Rome.

The funeral of Nicola Calipari in a Rome church was expected to draw the country’s president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and other top officials.

Meanwhile, the hostage whose life Calipari saved said it was possible they were targeted deliberately because the United States opposes Italy’s policy of negotiating with kidnappers, and promised Calipari’s widow to find out why they were attacked.

Journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was abducted on February 4 in Baghdad, was recovering in a Rome hospital from a shrapnel wound to the shoulder and was not expected to attend the funeral.

Calipari was killed when US troops at a checkpoint fired at their vehicle on Friday as they headed to the airport shortly after her release.

Tens of thousands of people have paid their respects to Calipari since his body returned from Iraq on Saturday night. The chamber containing his coffin, draped in the Italian flag, remained opened this morning as mourners kept coming.

Calipari was to be awarded a gold medal of valour for heroism. An autopsy was performed yesterday, and the Italian news agency ANSA quoted doctors as saying Calipari was struck in the temple by a single round and died instantly.

Sgrena said Calipari died shielding her. She offered no evidence to support her claim that the attack was deliberate, and in an interview published in today’s edition of the daily Corriere della Sera, she said she doesn’t know what led to the attack.

“I believe, but it’s only a hypothesis, that the happy ending to the negotiations must have been irksome,” she said. “The Americans are against this type of operation. For them, war is war, human life doesn’t count for much.”

In separate remarks yesterday, she said: “The fact that the Americans don’t want negotiations to free the hostages is known.”

Sgrena said she had spoken with Calipari’s wife.

“The only thing that I promised and I want to guarantee to her is that we must know the truth, because such exceptional people cannot die for no reason,” Sgrena said in a TV interview. “If someone is responsible, we need to know.”

Sgrena has rejected the US military’s account of the shooting, claiming instead that American soldiers gave no warning before they opened fire.

The White House called it a “horrific accident” and promised a full investigation.

The shooting has fuelled anti-American sentiment in Italy, where a majority of people opposed the war in Iraq and Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to send 3,000 troops after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

Neither Italian nor US officials gave details about how authorities won Sgrena’s release after a month in captivity. But Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno was quoted as saying it was “very probable” a ransom was paid. US officials have cautioned against ransoms, saying they encourage further kidnappings.

Sgrena, who works for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto – a fierce opponent of the war and a frequent critic of US policy – said she knew nothing about a ransom.

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