di Francesco Musolino
Rome, October 19 - Experts on Wednesday said Italian SWAT team officer Samuele Donatoni was killed not by friendly fire but by kidnappers during a failed 1997 hostage rescue operation. The deceased took fire from a Kalashnikov and not from a police-issue Beretta, the experts said. Donatoni, 32, was shot dead on the Rome-L'Aquila highway on the night of October 17, 1997, during a failed bid to free textiles magnate Giuseppe Soffiantini, who had been kidnapped for ransom by a gang in June that year. Donatoni's fellow agents Stefano Miscali and Claudio Sorrentino said kidnapper Mario Moro was responsible for the officer's killing. Fellow gangster Giovanni Farina was captured in Australia in 1998. He was sentenced to 28 years for his role in the kidnapping, but was acquitted in 2005 of being an accessory to the murder of the Italian agent: the court found Donatoni was hit by friendly fire, and the two surviving officers were indicted for manslaughter and slander for falsely accusing the kidnapper. The manslaughter charge had timed out, and today's expert report was issued for the defence because the two officers are still fighting the remaining slander charge. Donatoni, Miscali and Sorrentino were from the Central Operative Security Nucleus (NOCS, in its Italian acronym), Italy's state police SWAT team. Soffiantini, who was eventually freed after the payment of a $3 million ransom, was held for 237 days, during which two pieces of his ears were sent in with ransom demands.