The president of Italy Carlo Azeglio Ciampi has awarded Nicola Calipari the "Medaglia d'oro al Valor Militare alla memoria".

Calipari was killed by United States troops while driving with the Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena towards Baghdad Airport on 4 March 2005. He courageously shielded her with his own body, at the cost of his own life. Sgrena, a journalist with the Italian daily Il Manifesto, was also injured but is recovering in a hospital in Rome.

President Ciampi made special mention of Calipari's work for the Italian security services, carried out in extremely dangerous circumstances. Calipari had also been involved in other delicate and dangerous negotiations in Iraq and his superiors always had high praise for his excellent work and dedication to duty. His professional generosity was also highly recommended.

A full inquiry is under way to determine the circumstances behind the "friendly fire" episode that cost him his life, and for the first time an Italian has been allowed to sit in on the US Army investigating panel. A full breakdown of events is expected in the next few days.