The Italian government has vehemently denied a report in “The Times” that it paid off Afghan warlords and was indirectly responsible for the deaths of 10 French soldiers in an ambush last year.
The paper says US communication intercepts discovered the Italian secret service made payments of tens of thousands of euros to warlords, in an area then under Italian control. Italy’s defence minister said he is preparing a lawsuit against “The Times”: “The report we paid the Taliban not to be attacked is first of all offensive for the dead we have suffered in Afghanistan, and I can confirm that not only the Defence Ministry but not any other governmental body has ever worked in the way that the Times has described,” said Ignazio La Russa. Italy has also denied the US ambassador in Rome made a formal complaint on learning of the bribes.The Americans have refused to comment. The French army appears surprised: “French, Turkish and Italian forces openly share information, so there was a climate of trust and transparency. We have no information at this time that allows us to confirm the Times report,” said army spokesman Christophe Prazuck. A month after taking over from the Italians the French sent a lightly armed patrol into an area believed quiet, and boasted of as such to the media by Italian commanders. They walked straight into a trap. “The Times” is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who owns Silvio Berlusconi’s only serious media rival in Italy, Sky Italia. He has been at odds with the Italian prime minister for some time.