WASHINGTON – The White House on Monday said it was "absurd" for a former hostage in Iraq (search) to charge that U.S. military forces may have deliberately targeted her car as she was being rushed to freedom.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena (search) was traveling on one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq, to the Baghdad airport, when it was fired upon. An Italian intelligence officer in the car was shot and killed.
Responding to Sgrena's statement that the car may have been deliberately targeted, McClellan said. "It's absurd to make any such suggestion, that our men and women in uniform would deliberately target innocent civilians.
"That's just absurd," McClellan repeated.
He said the airport road "has been a place where suicide car bombers have launched attacks. It's been a place where regime elements have fired upon coalition forces. It is a dangerous road and it is a combat zone that our coalition forces are in. Oftentimes, they have to make split second decisions to protect their own security."
"And we regret this incident," McClellan added. "We are going to fully investigate what exactly occurred."
Bush called Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last Friday to apologize and to promise a full investigation.
In Rome, hundreds of people packed a church on Monday to pay their last respects to the slain intelligence officer, Nicola Calipari (search).
Sgrena, the ex-hostage whose life Calipari save, said it was possible they were targeted deliberately because the United States opposes Italy's policy of negotiating with kidnappers.