Doomed An-12 linked to Bout

AN Antonov An-12 freighter carrying FedEx cargo and belonging to an airline associated with a notorious gunrunner, has crashed in the desert just west of Baghdad, Iraq, killing all seven people on board.

It had just taken off from al-Asad air base flying to Baghdad International Airport on 13 November, when it lost radio contact after reporting a malfunction. Witnesses said it was in flames before it crashed.

The area was once a hotbed of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency, but there was no suggestion the plane had come under attack before crashing.

The Ukrainian-built An-12 is reported to have been owned by British Gulf International (associated with Russian gunrunner and smuggler Viktor Bout), and operated by a company called Falcon Aviation.

Air Cargo News was first to report on the illegal activities of Bout’s career in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A retired soviet Major, he has allegedly supplied arms to warlords and rebels in Africa and to the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as providing an aircraft and associated support to Osama bin Laden.

Bout is currently in a Bangkok prison attempting, with help from Russia, to resist extradition to the US. The US and UK governments have previously frequently used Bout’s planes to fly supplies into Iraq, despite well-known allegations of his activities. In return President Bush fought to have Bout left off of UN sanctions and National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice, specifically told the CIA and FBI not to arrest him.

FedEx could not be reached for a comment on the process that allowed their cargo to be carried by an airline with links to Bout.

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