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Iraq Transition

Visibility raised in Italian death

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CNN's Barbara Starr looks at conflicting reports between U.S. military and Italian journalist about fatal shooting in Iraq.
• White House: U.S. didn't target journalist
• Agent was seasoned negotiator
United States
Silvio Berlusconi

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The car carrying a freed hostage and three Italian security agents was rounding the bend of an entrance ramp to the road to Baghdad International Airport when U.S. soldiers opened fire, a senior U.S. military official has said.

Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, 50, was killed by U.S. soldiers when he tried to shield journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been freed March 4 after one month of captivity. (Full story)

The fact that shooting apparently occurred at curve in the road raises questions about visibility -- from the perspective of both the temporary checkpoint and from the car, the official said on Friday.

The U.S. military has said the car rapidly approached the checkpoint around 9 p.m., ignoring repeating warnings to stop.

The checkpoint had been set up to monitor traffic coming onto the airport road because outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte was expected to pass by.

Italian Prime Minister Slivio Berlusconi told the Italian senate on Wednesday that the agent who drove the car said he was traveling at a low speed and braked very swiftly when a light shone on the car.

An investigation continues into the shooting, which happened in western Baghdad on a road that has been the site of many insurgent attacks. U.S. military officials insist it is much safer now than in past months.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN the Italian government has been offered the opportunity to have one civilian and one military official participate in the investigation.

It is highly unlikely the Italians would have any role in questioning American military personnel because the U.S. military fact-finding investigation could lead to punishment of the troops involved, if at some point in the future investigators and commanders concluded the evidence was sufficient.

Such action would come only after the investigation is completed.

Also still unresolved is whether, and to what extent, Italian authorities notified the United States of their planned movements.

The soldiers at the checkpoint, from the 3rd Infantry Division, have indicated they had no idea the car was carrying the Italian party, while Italian officials have said they took care to inform U.S. officials.

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