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March 11, 2005
Italian Story Continues To Fall Apart

The AP reports that the Italian story of Giuliana Sgrena's release and later wounding at an American checkpoint, which also resulted in the death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, continues to fall apart. Two Italian newspapers now say that the general in charge of the Sgrena operation did not inform the US that Calipari's mission was to free Sgrena, and one of them reports that General Mario Maroli didn't even know it himself:

U.S. forces in Iraq were only partially informed about last week's Italian intelligence mission to release a hostage, which ended with a shooting on the road to Baghdad airport and the death of secret service agent Nicola Calipari, Italian newspapers said Friday. ...

Both newspapers cited a report by Gen. Mario Marioli, an Italian who is the coalition forces' second-in-command. The report has been given to Rome prosecutors investigating the killing.

According to the newspapers, Marioli informed U.S. officials that Calipari and the other Italian officer were there, but not that the mission was aimed at releasing Sgrena.

The papers had conflicting versions over how much Marioli knew: Corriere said he knew the Calipari was working to have the hostage released, La Repubblica said he didn't.

Either way, the Italians clearly did not want the US to know that they had ongoing negotiations aimed at releasing Sgrena. Why? Perhaps the reports of a multi-million dollar ransom answers that question rather effectively. The US clearly would have objected to the negotiations, especially since putting that much money in the hands of Islamofascist terrorists would likely get more of our soldiers killed, as well as the Iraqis. (Could the rash of bombings this week have any connection to a sudden influx of cash to the terrorist network? Maybe, maybe not.) If the US went public with its complaint, the deal would have fallen apart and the Italians humiliated, and it looks like they decided to keep us in the dark instead.

Sgrena also changed her story, subtly but significantly today:

In a statement released after the shooting, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said the vehicle was speeding and refused to stop. The statement also said a U.S. patrol tried to warn a driver with hand and arm signals, by flashing white lights and firing shots in front of the car into the engine block.

In interviews published Friday, Sgrena said that no light was flashed at the vehicle and that the shots were not fired in front of the car.

"It's not true that they shot into the engine," she told Corriere della Sera, adding that the shooting came "from the right and from behind."

That qualification changes the entire tenor of the story. Either one would have to believe that the checkpoint soldiers stopped the car and then shot it out -- from behind! -- or that the car never stopped at the checkpoint and traveled so fast that the soldiers could only catch up to it as it passed through. Think about the options for a moment. If a checkpoint successfully stops a suspicious vehicle, why would soldiers walk around behind it to open fire? They'd risk hitting their unit at the front of the car. Tactically, little gain would come from getting behind a potential VBIED in open space when one could get at least some partial protection from a potential explosion by the checkpoint barricades.

This story gets fishier and fishier on every retelling. First we have a "rain of bullets" and Sgrena scooping them up by the handful off the seats, and then we see a car with two bullet holes in it, one of which went through the right front tire. Next the Italians tell us that the US had full operational knowledge of the mission when it turns out their own military leadership was possibly kept in the dark. Now Sgrena tells us that the Americans fired from behind the vehicle when they stopped at the checkpoint, the only position where US soldiers would risk hitting their own troops.

I call "shenanigans" on the Italians.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 11, 2005 7:57 AM

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