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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq: Ex-Italian hostage to leave hospital soon

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Rome, March 14, ANSA/IRNA -- An Italian ex-hostage in Iraq is 'fine' after a second operation for complications from injuries sustained when she was caught in friendly fire after her release, doctors said Monday.

Leftwing journalist Giuliana Sgrena, 57, should leave hospital shortly, said Celio Military hospital hip and joint specialist Sandro Luziatelli.

Luziatelli said a March 4 operation to repair her left shoulder had been completed, extra skin grafts had been made and muscles and tendons fully patched up.

A decision as to carry out a further operation would be taken as soon as her shoulder fracture had healed, but she would in any case be released 'in a few days'.

"The patient remained conscious and spoke to us throughout the operation," the doctor added.

Sgrena has been hospitalized at the Celio since her return to Italy on March 4. She has said she wants her treatment to be completed at the military hospital, Luziatelli said.

Earlier today, doctors said the two-hour operation had been a success.

The journalist was shot in the shoulder by US forces who opened fire on the car taking her to the Baghdad airport after her release.

An Italian intelligence officer who obtained her release, Nicola Calipari, was killed in the friendly fire when he shielded Sgrena. She was first operated on in an American hospital in Baghdad for a bullet wound to her left shoulder, which fractured part of her collarbone and saw bone splinters penetrate the membrane near her lungs.

A joint American-Italian panel has been set up to investigate the incident for which US military and Sgrena and the other agent in the car have given contradicting accounts.

The American version is that US troops opened fire when the car was racing towards a mobile checkpoint and failed to obey repeated signals to stop.

However, Sgrena and the second secret service agent both told Italian magistrates that their car was not speeding, there were no warnings and that there was no checkpoint, just a patrol which opened fire immediately after shining a floodlight on the car.

Sgrena is a seasoned journalist for the left-wing Italian daily Il Manifesto. She was taken hostage after visiting a mosque in a Baghdad suburb.

It is still unclear whether any ransom was paid for her release although the government denies it.

Calipari was given was given a full state funeral after lying in state at Rome's Victor Emanuel monument, the national shrine which hosts the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Premier Silvio Berlusconi and US Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler all attended the funeral.

US President George W. Bush has promised a full report on the incident and expressed his deepest condolences for Calipari's death, as have Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


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