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Paris Match pics of Baghdad plane attack

PARIS, Nov 26 (AFP) – French weekly magazine, Paris Match, is to publish exclusive pictures of what it says are Iraqi rebels launching a missile attack on a German DHL cago plane over Baghdad that led to a shutdown of commercial air traffic to the Iraqi capital.

The images were taken by one of the magazine’s photographers, Jerome Sessini, who was with the attackers – described in the accompanying article as “Iraqi guerrillas” — at the time of Saturday’s missile strike, editor-in-chief Alain Genestar told AFP Wednesday.

He said Sessini and a special correspondent sent to Iraq, Claudine Verniez-Palliez, had been with the group for several days beforehand and were unaware they were about to witness the attack.

“They had been asked to come see caches of arms very close to Baghdad and didn’t discover the real reason for the operation until the last minute,” Genestar said.

The pictures, seen in an advance copy of the Thursday edition of the magazine, show a group of men wearing scarves over the heads and faces brandishing grenade launchers, and one man holding then firing a shoulder-launched missile, said in the article to be one of two Russian-made “Strella” SA-7 surface-to-air units.

In the article, Verniez-Palliez writes the rebels thought they had spotted a US military plane and the leader gave the order to fire.

But Genestar rejected accusations that his magazine could be seen to be sympathising with the Iraqi rebels.

“We don’t make the perpetrators of this act to be heroes,” he said, adding the correspondent and photographer had been brought back to France “for safety reasons”.

Three pictures show a plane trailing smoke with a second smoke trail — said to be a second missile that missed the aircraft — behind it. There is also a close-up of a plane with DHL clearly marked on its side with smoke coming from its left wing, and a wider shot of a plane trailing thick white smoke from its left wing.

Genestar said there was no picture of the missile actually hitting the aircraft because that was “technically impossible”.

The strike on the DHL Airbus A300 came just after it took off from Baghdad bound for DHL’s Gulf hub in Bahrain. The plane was forced to quickly turn around and make an emergency landing at Baghdad. No-one was hurt. It was the first successful strike on a civilian aircraft in the seven-month-old Iraq insurgency.

The next day, the US authorities occupying Iraq declared they had suspended all commercial air access to the city, though military flights would continue.

The Paris Match photographs were not the first images said to document the attack.

Another French journalist in Iraq, Sara Daniel, correspondent for the Paris-based weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, showed other journalists a video she said had been left at her Baghdad hotel on Sunday.

The six-minute video, seen by AFP on Monday, shows one of a group of masked militants firing a missile that hits the DHL cargo jet.


                                                                       Subject: French news