US troops deliberately targeted hostage, victim claims

 

Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena, shot and wounded by US forces after being freed in Iraq last Friday, believes she may have been deliberately targeted.

Speaking from the Rome hospital where she is being treated, Mr Sgrena (57) said she may have been shot because Washington opposes Italy's policy of paying ransoms to kidnappers.

"The United States doesn't approve of this policy and so they try to stop it in any way possible," the veteran war reporter told Sky Italia TV.

Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari was shot dead by US troops while rescuing the reporter.

The incident has sparked tension with between Italy and the US as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under pressure form the public outcry to take a hard line with President George W Bush.

Mr Bush promised a full investigation into why troops shot at the Italian car nearing Baghdad airport on Friday evening. Mr Calipari died instantly of a single bullet to the head, doctors said.

The US military says the car was speeding towards a checkpoint and ignored warning shots, an explanation rejected by Italian government ministers and the driver of the car.

A senior White House official, Dan Bartlett, said the shooting was a "horrific accident."

"As you know, in a situation where there is a live combat zone, particularly this road to the airport ... people are making split-second decisions, and it's critically important that we get the facts before we make judgments," he told CNN.

In a harrowing account of the ordeal, Mr Sgrena wrote in Sunday's issue of Il Manifestothat Mr Calipari saved her life by shielding her with his body. "Nicola threw himself on to protect me and then suddenly I heard his last breath as he died on top of me," she wrote.

Although Italy has denied paying kidnappers in past hostage releases, Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno told the newspaper that "very probably" a large ransom had been paid.