On Saturday November 22, 2003 at 1015 local time a DHL A-300B6 taking off
from Baghdad Int’l Apt (formerly Saddam Int’l – SDA) was hit by 2 SAM-7
missiles at height of approx 2500ft.
Both missiles impacted, one in contact with the left wing, another
apparently not in contact, but close enough to inflict damage. The one
that impacted on contact hit a point approx. 5m outboard of the engine
mount. The wing caught fire, but the pilot, who declared an emergency,
was able to land safely.
A video showing a masked militant firing the missile that hit a DHL
cargo jet over Baghdad this weekend – ending all commercial civilian
flights – has been delivered to a French journalist.
The missile set the plane’s engine ablaze – the first successful hit on a plane in the seven-month-old insurgency.
The six-minute footage was received by Sara Daniel, a correspondent
with a French weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, on Monday. It shows 10
militants, with their faces covered by chequered keffiyeh headdresses
or white scarves, carrying out the attack south of the capital on
The missile, launched from the shoulder, is seen shooting up into the
sky after being fired by one of the men. It then homes in on the
Airbus-300 freighter. The vapour trail makes a sharp U-turn as the
missile homes in on signals from flight.
The militants are then seen rushing away in a car. The 11th militant –
who presumably shot the footage – films his own lap in his haste to get
into the vehicle.
After a break the video resumes with footage of the airliner diving
down to Baghdad airport – this part of the recording is amateur footage
shot through electricity lines.
The men were clad in flowing black abayas or camouflage fatigues and
carried rocket-propelled grenade launchers or Kalashnikovs, as well as
two portable missile launchers.
Only one missile is shown being fired.
Before the firing a US army helicopter is seen hovering in the middle
distance, but the militants have clearly chosen their target and leave
the military aircraft alone.
The missile launcher is an SA-14 Gremlin, not an SA-7 Grail as initially reported by the US military.
Daniel said the video had been left at her hotel on Sunday. She said
she had no idea why she had been chosen from the hundreds of other
journalists covering the insurgency that has dogged the occupation.
"I have been working on a feature on the resistance groups for several
weeks. I’ve no idea who these people are who carried out this attack
but maybe they had heard of me through the others I have met while
researching my piece."
Daniel said she had met "Islamic militants who were bitterly opposed to
Saddam Hussein’s regime and whose only aim now is to end the US
A miraculous emergency landing at Baghdad airport meant nobody was hurt
in the strike. But the hit prompted the suspension by the US military
of all commercial civilian flights into the Iraqi capital – severing a
key link to the outside world.
The decision affected DHL – the only commercial courier to fly into
Iraq – and Royal Wings, a subsidiary of Royal Jordanian, which offered
the only regular passenger service.
Tens of thousands of surface-to-air missiles were bought by Saddam
Hussein’s regime, many of which fell into civilian hands after the
collapse of his armed forces during the US-led invasion.
The coalition has set up a buy-back programme to get the weapons off
the streets but acknowledges that hundreds probably remain in the hands
of their enemies.
The threat has prevented the reopening of Baghdad airport to scheduled
flights since the entry of US troops – despite huge initial interest
from international carriers.