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U.S. Rejects Suggestion That Ex-Hostage Was Targeted

7 March 2005 -- The White House today rejected as "absurd" an Italian journalist's suggestion that U.S. soldiers in Iraq had deliberately tried to kill her after she was freed from a month-long hostage ordeal.

Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that it is unthinkable that American soldiers would deliberately target innocent civilians.

The journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, was wounded when the convoy carrying her to Baghdad airport was riddled by U.S. fire late on 4 March.

Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari, who had just negotiated her release from her Iraqi captors, was killed in the shooting.

Calipari was given a hero's funeral in Rome today. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was among those attending. Secret service chief, Nicolo Pollari, told the mourners.

"He was in the car with Giuliana Sgrena and, together, they were overjoyed, and he said; 'Victory, she's free, she's here, here in the car with us -- I'll call you in a short while, I'll call you in a little while when we are safe.' But he never called again," Pollari said.

The United States has promised a full investigation into what happened.


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