Journalist Fired Upon by U.S. Troops is Released from Military Hospital

By: (AP) A journalist who was held hostage in Iraq for a month and later shot by U.S. troops as she was being driven to freedom was released Thursday from the hospital, where she was treated for a wound to her shoulder.

Giuliana Sgrena left Celio Military Hospital, where she has stayed since her return to Italy on March 5.

The Italian journalist from the newspaper Il Manifesto has undergone two operations after suffering a wound in her shoulder from shots fired by U.S. troops at a checkpoint near Baghdad's airport on March 4. Nicola Calipari, an Italian security agent traveling with Sgrena, was killed by the gunfire, and another one driving the car was injured.

Meanwhile, Italian newspapers reported Thursday that the justice minister has asked U.S. authorities to release the car so it can be examined by Italian ballistics experts.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli sent an official request to the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday to have the vehicle released, the Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica dailies reported.

The Justice Ministry in Rome said nobody was immediately available to confirm the reports.

The papers said the request came after the U.S. command in Iraq reportedly blocked two Italian policemen from examining the car, citing security concerns. On Wednesday, the U.S. military in Baghdad said it did not have information on that report by Corriere della Sera.

The Toyota Corolla remains in U.S. hands at Baghdad airport, where it had been rented, according to the reports.

Italian authorities say inspecting the car is crucial in assessing what happened during the shooting.

Italian prosecutors investigating the shooting have received photographs of the car but want to analyze bullet entry holes and the vehicle's engine, La Repubblica said.

Calipari's killing outraged Italians and prompted Premier Silvio Berlusconi to demand that Washington provide an explanation.

Italy agrees that the shooting was an accident but disputes some key elements of the U.S. account.

The U.S. military said the driver was speeding and refused to stop, and that a U.S. patrol tried to warn the driver with hand and arm signals, and by flashing white lights and firing shots in front of the car and into the car's engine block.

Berlusconi said the car was traveling slowly, noting that it was nighttime, and stopped immediately when a light was flashed at it, shortly before U.S. troops fired on the car. Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said the gunfire appeared to have hit the right side of the car.

Washington has ordered an investigation into the shooting to be led by a U.S. brigadier general, with the participation of Italian officials. The joint commission is expected to release its findings by mid-April.


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