Was Italian Hostage's Car Speeding?

ByABC News

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2005 — -- A senior U.S. military official tells ABC News he believes the investigation into the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops in Iraq will ultimately prove the officer's car was traveling in excess of 100 mph.

The car, which was carrying a newly released Italian hostage to freedom, came under fire from U.S. troops at a checkpoint Friday. Intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was hit by a bullet and killed as he threw himself in front of the freed hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena. Sgrena and another intelligence officer were wounded.

The shooting has outraged Italians, who mourned Calipari at a state funeral Monday.

Sgrena has said she believes the car was deliberately ambushed because the United States opposes Italy's policy of negotiating with hostage-takers. The White House has dismissed claims that the shooting was anything but an accident as "absurd."

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told his country's parliament today that the shooting was an accident, but he contradicted the U.S. military's account of the incident. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said in a statement that the vehicle was "traveling at high speeds" and did not stop at the checkpoint, despite a number of warnings. The military said U.S. soldiers only opened fire after the car ignored the warnings.

Fini, however, said the car was traveling no faster than 25 mph, and disputed the U.S. military's assertion that several warnings were given. He said the U.S. government must conduct a thorough investigation, "that responsibilities be pinpointed, and, where found, that the culprits be punished."

But, according to the senior U.S. military official, the car was traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph. The driver almost lost control several times before the shooting as the car hydroplaned through large puddles, the official told ABC News. The car had not gone through any previous checkpoints, the source added.

The official also denied previous claims that a tank opened fire on the car.

Fini said Calipari, an experienced officer who had negotiated the release of Sgrena and other hostages in Iraq in the past, had contacted U.S. authorities to let them know the car carrying the freed hostage would be on its way to the airport.

But according to the U.S. military official, Italians did not coordinate the transport with U.S. or coalition forces, and, as a result, U.S. soldiers did not know who was in the car. They instead believed the car was carrying a bomb.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events