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Missile hits DHL plane, say officials

Baghdad, Nov. 22 (Reuters): A plane operated by courier giant DHL made an emergency landing at Baghdad’s airport today after being hit by a surface-to-air missile, airport officials said.

A DHL official at Baghdad airport said the plane suffered an engine fire after take-off from Baghdad and returned to the airport. He said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

“The fire was extinguished and it returned to Baghdad, landing safe and sound,” the official said. Airport officials, however, said initial indications suggested a missile had hit the plane. A US military spokesman confirmed that a civilian plane had “declared an in-flight emergency”. Missiles have been fired several times at planes approaching the airport, but today’s incident was the first time a fixed-wing aircraft had been reported hit.

Guerrilla attacks have brought down five US army helicopters in Iraq over the past month, killing 39 people. A Brussels-based spokesman for DHL, Xavier de Buck, said an Airbus A300 had been on its way to Bahrain when it was forced to turn back to Baghdad and make an emergency landing.

”The three people who were on board are totally fine,” he said, without elaborating on the cause of the emergency.

He said the company's clients in Iraq included non-governmental organisations. It did not handle military cargo.

A spokesman for Germany's Deutsche Post, which owns DHL, said DHL planes made several flights a day between Baghdad and Bahrain carrying post and parcels to and from U.S. soldiers and packages for aid organisations in Iraq.

”These are civilian goods. DHL is the only provider for U.S. military mail. There is no military materiel in the airplanes,” the Bonn-based spokesman said.

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