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Slain Italian Agent Mourned

Minnnesota Vikings quaterback Brett Favre makes a touchdown signal as he returns to the practice field for the first time during NFL football training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 in Eden Prairie, Minn.
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Hundreds of people packed a church in Rome Monday to pay their last respects to an Italian intelligence officer shot and killed by American troops in Iraq while escorting an ex-hostage to freedom.

U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler joined Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian dignitaries at the state funeral of Nicola Calipari.

Aside from the moment when the crowd broke into applause when Calipari's body was taken away, there was a solemn silence throughout the ceremony itself, reports CBS News Correspondent Charlie D'Agata.

The military chaplain who presided over the funeral remarked on Calipari's "grandeur of soul," sacrificing his own life so that journalist Giuliana Sgrena might live.

Calipari has become a national hero in Italy, CBS News Reporter Sabina Castelfranco said. Calipari, a highly experienced hostage negotiator, is being described as "a generous hero," a savior who must not be forgotten.

Mourners stood as an honor guard slowly carried the casket, draped with an Italian flag, into Santa Maria degli Angeli Church. In the front row, Calipari's relatives gripped each other's hands and dabbed away tears.

"He died as a hero, and I cannot forget he had also helped to free us," Maurizio Agliana, one of four Italian security guards kidnapped in Iraq last April, told the crowd.

The body was returned from Iraq late Saturday. It lay in state Sunday at Rome's Vittoriano monument, and thousands paid their respects.

Giuliana Sgrena, the ex-hostage Calipari was escorting to the Baghdad airport, said it was possible they were targeted deliberately because the United States opposes Italy's policy of negotiating with kidnappers, and promised Calipari's widow to find out why they were attacked.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday that the car carrying Sgrena was traveling on one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq when it was fired upon.

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 target individual citizens."

Calipari was killed when U.S. troops at a checkpoint fired at their vehicle Friday as they headed to the airport shortly after her release. Sgrena, a journalist who was abducted Feb. 4 in Baghdad, was recovering in a Rome hospital from a shrapnel wound to the shoulder and was not expected to attend the funeral.

Calipari was to be awarded a gold medal of valor for heroism. An autopsy was performed Sunday, and the Italian news agency ANSA quoted doctors as saying he was struck in the temple by a single round and died instantly.

Sgrena said Calipari died shielding her. She offered no evidence to support her claim that the attack was deliberate, and in an interview published in Monday's edition of the daily Corriere della Sera, she said she doesn't know what led to the attack.

"I believe, but it's only a hypothesis, that the happy ending to the negotiations must have been irksome," she said. "The Americans are against this type of operation. For them, war is war, human life doesn't count for much."

In separate remarks Sunday, she said: "The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known."

"The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostage, everybody knows that," she added, speaking to Sky TG24 television by telephone. "So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target."

Sgrena said she had spoken with Calipari's widow.

"The only thing that I promised and I want to guarantee to her is that we must know the truth, because such exceptional people cannot die for no reason," Sgrena told private TG5 TV. "If someone is responsible, we need to know."

The White House described the shooting as a "horrific accident" and promised a full investigation. But Sgrena has rejected the U.S. military's account of the shooting, claiming that American soldiers gave no warning before they opened fire.

The shooting has fueled anti-American sentiment in Italy, where a majority of people opposed the war in Iraq and Berlusconi's decision to send 3,000 troops after Saddam Hussein's ouster.

"Italy is a great country, and this is why we must ask for precise and detailed explanations of what happened from the American government and get them quickly," Sandro Bondi, national coordinator of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, was quoted as saying by ANSA.

Neither Italian nor U.S. officials gave details about how authorities won Sgrena's release after a month in captivity. But Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno was quoted as saying it was "very probable" a ransom was paid. U.S. officials have cautioned against ransoms, saying they encourage further kidnappings.

Sgrena, who works for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto — a fierce opponent of the war and a frequent critic of U.S. policy — said she knew nothing about a ransom.

In an article Sunday, Sgrena said her captors warned her shortly before her release to beware of the Americans. She later told Italian state TV RAI that "when they let me go, it was a difficult moment for me because they told me, `The Americans don't want you to return alive to Italy."' She didn't elaborate.

Her editor, Gabriele Polo, said Italian officials told him 300 to 400 rounds were fired at the car. Italian military officials said two other intelligence agents were wounded in the shooting; U.S. officials said only one was.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said it was crucial that the facts be determined before judgments were made about the shooting. Speaking Sunday on CNN, he called the shooting "a horrific accident" and pledged a full investigation.