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Iraq Transition

Hostage recounts U.S. shooting

Bush vows investigation into why U.S. troops fired on her car

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The freed Italian hostage wounded in Baghdad by U.S. troops has recounted some details of the incident as the body of the agent killed whilst trying to save her arrives in Rome.

Giuliana Sgrena has told a local TV station she is doing well but is "upset" by the death of Nicola Calipari, who was killed protecting her from U.S. gunfire.

Calipari's body arrived in Rome on Saturday night as top officials including Defense Minister Antonio Martino and Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi stood by.

Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter who was struck by shrapnel in her left shoulder Friday night hours after she was freed from her Iraqi kidnappers, told Rainew24 she was particularly upset by Calipari's death because she thought they were out of danger.

"Instead, there has been a sudden shootout. We were hit by a barrage of bullets," she said from Rome's military hospital.

Sgrena, who was held captive by Iraqi insurgents for a month, was traveling to Baghdad airport with security agents when U.S. forces at a checkpoint opened fire.

Recounting the incident, she said she was talking to Calipari, when suddenly "he leaned over me, probably to defend me, and then he slumped down and I saw he was dead."

The 56-year-old journalist said the fire of bullets kept on coming "because the driver couldn't even explain that we were Italians. It has really been a terrible thing."

Calipari, who is being hailed as a hero, was flown home in a coffin wrapped in an Italian flag and was carried out of the military plane by a guard of honor. (Profile)

His return was broadcast on most of Italy's national television stations, Reuters news agency reported, underscoring the shock and disbelief in the country over the killing.

Speaking from Rome's military hospital, Sgrena, said she was doing well.

The two other Italian security agents in the car were also wounded. According to Reuters, one returned to Italy with Sgrena on Saturday morning, and the other, who was seriously wounded, is being treated in Iraq.

U.S. President George W. Bush has promised the United States will investigate the incident.

In a written statement, multinational officials said U.S. soldiers opened fire on a car that was approaching a checkpoint at high speed.

U.S. troops had "attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car," the statement said.

"When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block, which stopped the vehicle."

However, Italian magistrate Franco Ionta said Sgrena disagreed with the military account.

"It wasn't a checkpoint, but a patrol that shot as soon [as] they lit us up with a spotlight. We didn't know where the bullets were coming from. We had not met other checkpoints before. Our car was absolutely not traveling at high speed," she said.

Rules of engagement permit coalition troops to use escalating levels of force if they feel threatened. They can use lethal force, for example, if a car refuses to stop for a checkpoint.

The road where the incident took place is particularly dangerous.

Staunch Bush supporter

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summoned U.S. ambassador Mel Sembler on Friday, demanding a full investigation. He also received a telephone call from Bush, who expressed his regrets.

Berlusconi is a staunch Bush supporter, backing the U.S.-led invasion and sending in the Italian troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

Sgrena's partner, Pierre Scolari, blamed the shooting on the U.S. government, even suggesting the incident was intentional.

"I hope the Italian government does something because either this was an ambush, as I think, or we are dealing with imbeciles or terrorized kids who shoot at anyone," he said, according to Reuters.

CNN's Alessio Vinci reported that Saturday's Il Manifesto newspaper, Sgrena's employer, had accused U.S. forces of "assassinating" Calipari.

Il Manifesto is a left-leaning newspaper that has long opposed the Iraq war.

Sgrena was kidnapped outside a mosque in Baghdad on February 4. Later that month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and urging her government to work for an end to the foreign occupation of Iraq.

The tape was shown on the same day that Italy's Senate voted to extend the funding for the deployment.

Sgrena also asked Scolari to show pictures she had taken of Iraqi children being hit by cluster bombs.

Thousands of Italians took part in vigils calling for Sgrena's safe return home.

At least eight Italians have been taken hostage in Iraq. Another journalist, Enzo Baldoni, was seized in August 2004 and later killed by his captors.

Berlusconi's government at the time said it would try to secure her freedom but, as in past hostage cases, refused to withdraw Italian troops in Iraq, as hostage-takers have often demanded.

Italy has about 3,000 troops in Iraq, the fourth-largest foreign contingent after U.S., British and South Korean forces.

Soldiers killed

Five U.S. troops were killed in Iraq on Friday, military officials said, bringing the number of American troops who have died in the Iraq war to 1,507.

There has been no official figure for the overall number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-government estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 30,000.

Four of the Americans were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and were killed in Anbar province.

Nearly two weeks ago, U.S. forces began Operation River Blitz in the province in an attempt to root out insurgents.

The fifth U.S. soldier died, and another was injured, in a vehicle accident near Tikrit, military officials said.

A Bulgarian soldier was also killed Friday night when his patrol came under machine gun fire, military forces said, on the Tampa road, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) southeast of Diwaniya.

CNN's Alessio Vinci and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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