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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
The 'Apache' farmer's tale
Ali Abid Minqash (left) being interviewed on Iraqi TV with the grounded apache
Ali Abid Minqash with his trusty weapon

The elderly Iraqi farmer who, according to Baghdad officials, literally shot his way to fame by downing a state-of-the-art US Apache helicopter with an old carbine has flatly denied he had anything to do with the crash.

At the height of the war, Iraqi TV showed pictures of the downed aircraft and said it had been shot down by farmer Ali Abid Minqash.

It broadcast poetry in praise of the "farmer who harvests both rice and Apaches". The local branch of the agricultural union also presented Mr Minqash with a plaque to commemorate his action.

Pictures of the results of Minqash's alleged feat were rebroadcast on pan-Arab TV stations and Saddam Hussein himself praised the farmer in a televised address urging resistance to the US-led forces as part of a "people's war".

I didn't shoot down an Apache or anything else
Ali Abid Minqash

"You probably remember the gallant Iraqi peasant who shot down a US Apache using an old weapon, the Brno," the Iraqi leader said on 4 April.

"Strike at your enemy strongly. Strike at your enemy with your strong faith wherever he comes close to you."

But a Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Rai al-Am, says it has now tracked down the farmer, albeit with considerable difficulty.

"It might be easier to find ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein than to get to Minqash who rose to instant stardom on the satellite TV channels," it commented.

'I rubbed my eyes...'

Minqash told the paper that he had come across the aircraft in his field early one morning.

"I didn't shoot down an Apache or anything else. All that happened was that I went to the field, as I usually do early in the morning, and was surprised to find some bodies on the ground.

"I began to rub my eyes to make sure that what I was seeing was true or whether I was imagining it," he said.

Celebrations around the grounded Apache, as reported on Iraqi TV
Jubilant Iraqis celebrate Minqash's 'feat'

"When I realised that it was really true, I was overcome by fear and rushed to the nearest government post to inform them that there was a plane in my field.

"A large number of [Baath] party members and security men came with me to investigate. They told me that it was an American Apache aircraft and made me stay with them until someone who they said was a senior official arrived. I didn't know who he was.

"They asked me to say what you have heard on the TV satellite channels - that I shot down the plane with an old gun, a Brno."

Minqash 'going fishing' shock

The paper said that Minqash lives in a simple brick house encircled by palm trees and surrounded by livestock on all sides. He also has a large family and circle of acquaintances "who protect him with their geniality and spontaneity".

The geniality obviously extends to jokes about his "feat".

One runs that the US decided to withdraw its fleet from the Gulf once it learned that Minqash planned to go fishing there.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Iraq shows off Apache crew
25 Mar 03  |  Middle East



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