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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 September, 2003, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Iraq missile attack on US plane
A US military plane taking off from Baghdad airport came under attack from two surface-to-air missiles, it has emerged.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with Lt Gen Ricardo S Sanchez upon his arrival at Baghdad International Airport
The attack was not thought to be connected to Mr Rumsfeld's visit
The heat-seeking missiles had no chance of hitting the transport plane, which was flying at an altitude of 4,000 metres (14,000 feet) at the time, said British military officials.

The incident, in the early hours of Saturday, came just hours before American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left the airport at the end of a three-day visit to Iraq.

This is not the first time planes using the airport have been targeted. A missile was fired at a transport plane last week, missing it by one kilometre.

Mr Rumsfeld's aide, Lawrence DiRita, said the two missiles were "fired at a C-141 taking off from Baghdad airport".

"They detonated before they ever reached the plane," he added.

Iraqi targets

A British official confirmed that such missiles would have had no chance of hitting the plane at the height it was flying.

He said those responsible for firing the missiles were probably not aware of their capability.

The spokesman dismissed any suggestion of a connection with the visit of Mr Rumsfeld, who has been drumming up support for non-coalition troops to serve there under a new UN mandate.

Elsewhere, a mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attack was carried out on a village outside Tikrit - birthplace of deposed leader Saddam Hussein - late on Saturday, apparently targeting Iraqis helping US troops.

American soldiers said they thought the missiles, which destroyed a car in Awja, had been deliberately aimed at villagers. There were no reports of casualties.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"There was an incident yesterday [Saturday] morning near Baghdad airport"

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