- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

From combined dispatches

PARIS — A French weekly magazine plans to publish pictures of Iraqi insurgents launching a missile attack on a German DHL cargo plane over Baghdad that led to a closure of commercial air traffic to the Iraqi capital.

The images were taken by Jerome Sessini, one of the photographers from the magazine Paris Match, who was with the attackers at the time of Saturday’s attack, Editor in Chief Alain Genestar told Agence France-Presse yesterday.

He said Mr. 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,” Mr. Genestar said.

The pictures, seen in an advance copy of today’s edition of the magazine, show a group of men wearing scarves over their heads and faces. The men are brandishing grenade launchers, and one is firing a shoulder-launched missile, described in an accompanying article to be one of two Russian-made “Strella” SA-7 surface-to-air units.

Mr. Genestar rejected accusations that his magazine could be seen to be sympathizing with the Iraqi rebels.

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

The strike on the DHL plane — the first strike on a civilian aircraft in the seven-month insurgency — came just after the Airbus A300 took off from Baghdad bound for Bahrain. No one was hurt and the plane returned to Baghdad International Airport.

On Monday, 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 Sunday.

The six-minute video shows one of a group of masked militants firing a missile that hit the DHL jet.

On Tuesday, a question about that video led U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to sharply criticize Arab satellite television networks Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

He said the U.S. administration had evidence the news organizations cooperated with Iraqi insurgents to witness and videotape attacks on American troops.

The insurgents have “called Al Jazeera to come and watch them [attack American troops], and Al Arabiya,” Mr. Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.

Yesterday, the two popular Arab news stations denied the accusation to the Associated Press.

“The only comment we have is that [Mr. Rumsfeld] has to show the evidence,” said Salah Negm, Al Arabiya’s editor in chief.

“We have never broadcast tapes of attacks as they happen. It was always the aftermath. We arrive there at the scene like everyone else.”

Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said: “To say that Al Jazeera has previous knowledge of the attacks is utterly not true.”

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