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  Paris Match Coverage of DHL Missile Hit

Paris Match Reporter Claudine Vernier-Palliez accompanied the Fedayeen Commando Unit on their Strike Mission.

Pictured above (and in the slides to follow) is the fedayeen commando which struck the DHL Airbus on 27/11/03


There to inquire into the rebels who fight against the American presence, our reporter Claudine Vernier-Palliez has attended the shocking exploits of a guerrilla band that’s ready for everything. Even to fire against a civilian aircraft!


 READ the ARTICLE Below (translated version)

Sent by our special envoy Claudine Vernier-Palliez

It is sunrise and time for the first prayer of the day. The ten men lay down their weapons on the ground and prostrate themselves towards Mecca. Three cars are at their disposal. They start off in a column, we don’t know where they’re taking us. They stop in a cloud of dust, some kilometres further on, to recover a ground-to-air missile Sam-7 wrapped in a white fabric and concealed in a thicket, at the edge of a dirt track.

Then they retrieve and place in their van an RPG7, Kalashnikovs and machine-guns that were hidden in underbrush by a nearby bridge. "Today”, says the Leader, “we will cut down a plane! We had planned to carry out this operation tomorrow evening, but now it will be done this morning." He lifts his arms towards the sky and begs Allah to support them, him and his team.


The day before, his face always masked by a red and white muffler, the head commando had tried to explain to us the reasons for his action: "Right now, the Americans' plans have failed, and our action has been born from their behaviour towards the Iraqi population. The have neither included nor understood us nor respected our rights. Under the pretext of releasing us, they took from us our final freedoms. Each one here will say to you that they lived better under Saddam and that however bad, we had all our freedoms. Today, we tighten our grip upon the Americans. We propose for them to carry out their project only if they help us to carry out ours which is our freedom and our right for us to control our country ourselves. We know all that they are here for the oil. We propose to them to keep it and for us to keep about 1% of it.


He says that the resistance movement  which he commands has already brought down five planes, all military models. "No-one realises, but everybody here knows that, since the end of the war, the Americans have been hiding their true death-toll. “The first one”, he tells me, “was on June 15, on the Nasiryah motorway, about 140 kilometres from Baghdad. We counted 177 corpses which they have never acknowledged. Not a word either of the 50 officers who arrived by air from Turkey and tried to land at the Baghdad Airport on October the 2nd or 3rd, I forget the exact date. We fired two missiles at 7 am, and hit the fuselage of that plane; I believe that it was a C-130.  More verifiable than the enormity of his accounting of precedents, he adds that a week before the beginning of Ramadan, one Thursday, before sunset, his team shot down a helicopter which fell into the Euphrates River.  “But a plane”, he adds laughing gleefully under his red and white hood, “strategically that has more value.”


Friday November 21, somewhere in Baghdad.

The head of the commandos tells us that one day prior he had spotted a DHL Airbus which was flying at low level. “I’ve never, we never fire on the civil aircraft. But at that time I did not know what DHL was doing.  Afterwards, when a friend of mine explained that these aircraft transported GI’s mail, I regretted a little my intentions. That would mean depriving the soldiers of the letters from their mothers and their wives. But the next time, I fire!" The sun rises and draws red shades upon the men who have just begun to take up their weapons and prepare for "the operation". A peasant passes, his shovel on his back. He understands what is underway and says simply: "God blesses you and supports your action", before moving away quietly towards his field of tomatoes. Ears prick up. A plane has just taken off from the Bagdad Airport - less than 4 kilometres from where we are.


Despite the noise, even when the sky is clear they are not always clearly visible." The team gives an opinion. Eight men place themselves about fifteen meters apart, RPG7's upheld and Russian machine-guns on bipod mounts, ready for action if a patrol of GI’s should venture upon them. Two men move away slightly from the group, each one carrying on his shoulder a Russian Sam-7 type ground-to-air missile. One man, his face concealed under a white scarf, explains to us the missile’s operation. "One is an older type, and it is necessary to actuate the release to direct the missile onto its target. For three such launched missiles, only one in general would reach its target. The other SA-14 is more modern and the locking of the missile onto the target is automatic. The impact is therefore guaranteed."

The plane is hardly distinguishable as it climbs into the sky. "Too far, too high!” howls the leader, “We’ll get the next one."

After having rolled half an hour further into the countryside, the leader gives the command to halt at the end of a sunken lane and to park the cars so that they are ready to disperse at the slightest sound. We are within approximately 2 kilometres of the airport, it is a little before 9am, this Saturday morning November 22. The sky is clear and the sun is already much too hot. Wild dogs pass by, their tails raised as if in question mark, but the peasants who attend their cows in the fields easily guess what it is these men with the faces hidden under their scarves are up to. Are they supportive of their planned action? The "soldiers" charged with security of the launch-point give me their opinions.


One of their number films the scene, a Kalashnikov in one hand, a small camera in the other. Three men are waiting at the wheel of each of the cars, ready to start at a moment’s notice. Suddenly, the leader pricks up his ears and scans the sky, leaps up and shouts: "A plane! You there, at the ready, this time you will have to fire!" The aircraft is flying at approximately 4800ft of altitude and is about 3 kilometres from us. The two men are placed 50 meters apart and wait for their orders, With a Strella on one’s shoulders it’s believed to be hard to distinguish a Boeing 747 from an American military plane. The seeker head howls: "Fire!  and at 9:18am the first missile hits the target's left wing. The second, five seconds later, misses its target. The leader jumps for joy like a child and lifts up his hands to the sky: "Allah O Akbar! Allah O Akbar!" Then he immediately gives the order to breakdown the weapons and each car starts off in a cloud of dust, each one in a different direction. We will discover later from the press-releases that the commando group had fired upon a DHL Airbus... A civil target!