Dead Men Left

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Italian hostage shooting: Guiliana Sgrena contradicts Pentagon reports

Lenin (as ever) as somewhat beaten me to it, but this is sufficiently strange that I see no harm in plugging the story myself.

Guiliani Sgrena, the freed Italian hostage, was fired upon by US troops shortly after her release. Her bodyguard, an Italian secret serviceman, was killed, and the car she was travelling in reportedly "riddled" with 300-400 rounds of bullets. The Pentagon version of events had Sgrena's car behaving erratically, approaching a checkpoint at high speed and so inviting a response from twitchy US soldiers. Ed Staines, in his comments on the earlier DML post, had wondered how this huge number of live rounds discharged had not failed to kill all the occupants of the car. It seems the inconsistencies run deeper still.

Sgrena has presented a version of events that flatly contradicts the Pentagon's story. From Direland, who picked the story from Nouvelle Observateur:

"Our car was rolling along at normal speed, so it was impossible for there to have been a misunderstanding," Sgrena told the Italian magistrates who've been charged with investigating the murderous incident, according to the Italian wire service Ansa-- which also says her account has been confirmed by one of the Italian secret service agents in the car with her, who was likewise wounded. These two testimonies from the victims of the shooting completely contradict the Pentagon's account that Sgrena was in a speeding car that was heading straight for a checkpoint and was shot at to stop it. In fact, says Sgrena, there was no checkpoint--"just a patrol that started shooting at us as soon as they bracketed their headlights on us." In the same dispatches, Sgrena's boyfriend, Pier Scolari, says Washington wanted to eliminate her because Sgrena--who'd reported extensively on the abuses at Abu Ghraib--had "important new information, and the U.S. forces didn't want her to get out of Iraq alive," according to the Nouvel Obs. Scolari went so far as to speak of an "ambush."

Doug Ireland muses, as we all might, on the connection between this (very peculiar) incident and the resignation of CNN chief Eason Jordan following his off-hand remarks on the US' targetting of journalists. Doug follows up with another link to Nouvelle Observateur, and claims Sgrena's version of events has been confirmed by an Italian secret service agent.

The problem here is quite simple, and hinges on the grand injuction against conspiracy theories. If the US army had wanted to kill Sgrena, they would have done. Shootings of civilians happen all the time. What possible advantage would there be in killing Sgrena? Weighed up, the situation still looks like an almighty cock-up rather than a cunning plot - but some serious concerns remain, if Sgrena's account is accurate.

Whatever else, all this blows the rapprochement that Bush's visit to Europe was supposed to establish out of the water. This one will run and run; though we can only speculate as to why a further twist in a major international incident has (as yet) been entirely ignored by the British media.