- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

BAGHDAD — Insurgents hit a civilian cargo jet with a missile as it took off yesterday from Baghdad International Airport, setting the left wing ablaze and forcing the pilot to turn back for an emergency landing.

None of the three-man crew was hurt on the Airbus 300, operated by the Belgium-based cargo service DHL.

But the attack marked the first direct hit on a civilian jet and highlighted the danger at Baghdad’s main airport, which serves as a major U.S. military base and an entry point for supplies and aid.

Elsewhere, back-to-back suicide car bombings at two police stations on the outskirts of Baghdad killed at least 12 Iraqis and two bombers.

[In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a rocket attack wounded three Iraqis and four Americans at a heavily protected building belonging to the state-owned Northern Oil Co. (NOC).

[“At dinnertime, two rockets hit the NOC cultural and social club, which the Americans and KBR employees use as a canteen,” police Officer Salam Jalal told Agence France-Presse, referring to Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the U.S. oil-services giant Halliburton.]

In Mosul, another city in the north, an Iraq police colonel in charge of protecting oil installations was assassinated.

Officials braced for more attacks this week as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan draws to a close.

DHL, which has been making about three daily flights into Baghdad since June, suspended flights through tomorrow.

The only commercial carrier flying into Baghdad, Royal Jordanian, also suspended flights for three days.

The Airbus 300 turned around and managed to land after its left wing burst into flames. All three crew members — two Belgians and a Briton — emerged safely.

The U.S.-led coalition authority said it was investigating, but a military official on the condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that a SAM-7 struck the plane.

The damage appeared consistent with the effects of a surface-to-air missile hit. A photograph taken from the ground showed flames at the spot where the foils and flaps meet on the left wing’s trailing edge.

Insurgents have downed five U.S. military helicopters in recent weeks using shoulder-fired missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, killing about 40 U.S. servicemen.

Northeast of Baghdad, suicide bombers struck the two police stations within 30 minutes yesterday morning.

The bombings came as U.S. intelligence reported that militant Muslims would carry out more attacks in the final days of Ramadan, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division.

In the market town of Khan Bani Saad, a Chevrolet Caprice sped through a guard’s gunfire and exploded at the station gate, police said.

Capt. Ryan McCormick of the 4th Infantry Division said 10 persons were killed — including six policemen, three civilians and the driver — and another 10 wounded.

Iraqi police said one of the dead was a 5-year-old girl.

Sgt. Aqil Suheil, an Iraqi police officer who was wounded in the legs, said he was washing his car when he saw the car speed into the station.

“I heard a loud explosion. I found myself under the car,” he said. “I got out quickly and ran toward the street and then lost consciousness.”

In Baqouba, 12 miles to the northeast, a white sport utility vehicle approached the gate to a police station at normal speed. The driver ignored orders to stop and the vehicle blew up at the checkpoint, witnesses said.

Three policemen as well as the driver were killed, and one policeman was missing, Lt. Wisam Ahmed said. At least 10 civilians were hurt.

However, a coalition official speaking on condition of anonymity said five policemen were killed and 15 were wounded.

In Mosul, police Col. Abdul-Salam Qanbar, in charge of a police force protecting oil installations, was fatally shot while heading to a mosque in the evening, a police official said.

Police have become walking targets in postwar Iraq because of their cooperation with the coalition. About 40,000 police are on active duty and another 10,000 are in training, the coalition has said. Another 35,000 officers will be trained next year.

Since Wednesday, insurgents have carried out six vehicle bombings.

“It is clear that the terrorists have targeted Iraqis, the very Iraqis who are trying to improve the security in Iraq and the lives of ordinary Iraqis,” coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.

Among the attacks: A bomb exploded at the home of a pro-U.S. sheik in Ramadi, another blast occurred at the offices of a U.S.-allied Kurdish political party in Kirkuk and a truck blew up near the office of a British de-mining company in Irbil.

A remotely detonated bomb hidden in a juice cart exploded yesterday near an American convoy in Mosul, police and witnesses said.

No Americans were injured, but two Iraqis were hurt when, according to police, U.S. soldiers stunned by the explosion opened fire in all directions. The U.S. military said it was investigating.

“I was in my car,” said taxi driver Hisham Abdullah, 22, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. “The Americans were behind me. They were firing randomly and I was hit in the head.”

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