First flight out of Iraq takes pilgrims to Saudi
Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
Thursday 10 April 1997
The flight may be in part a response by Iraq to the hard line on sanctions expressed by the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who said that American policy would change only with an alteration to the regime in Iraq. The aircraft, whose pilgrim passengers were all over 50, had taken off from Rashid airbase outside Baghdad. After it crossed the Iraqi frontier, the flight was escorted by two Saudi Arabian fighters. Saudi Arabia is obligated to receive Haj pilgrims bound for the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
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