A U.S. soldier facing trial in the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence officer at an Iraq checkpoint said he had no choice but to fire, a newspaper reported Monday.
Spc. Mario Lozano said the agent's vehicle kept approaching after he flashed a warning light to signal it to stop, the New York Post reported. Lozano said he shot first at the ground and then at the vehicle's engine.
"You have a warning line, you have a danger line, and you have a kill line," Lozano told the newspaper from a relative's New York apartment.
"Anyone inside 100 meters is already in the danger zone ... and you gotta take them out," Lozano said. "If you hesitate, you come home in a box - and I didn't want to come home in a box. I did what any soldier would do in my position."
Lozano is set to be tried in absentia this month on a murder charge in the March 2005 death of Nicola Calipari. The intelligence officer was shot on his way to the Baghdad airport, shortly after securing the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist. Another agent and the journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, were wounded.
The Army said its representative handling the case was not available, and the Italian embassy in Washington declined to comment, according to the Post.
The shooting strained relations between Italy and the United States, and the two countries have issued separate reports on it.
The Italian government report blamed U.S. military authorities for failing to signal that there was a military checkpoint ahead on the road. It also contended that stress, inexperience and fatigue played a role.
The American government said the car had been going fast enough to alarm the soldiers. The Italians said the vehicle was traveling slowly.