Remember the Apache helicopter that was supposedly shot down by an Iraqi farmer in the early days of the Iraq war? The fact that Saddam mentioned this in a video tape was used as proof that he was still alive and wasn’t killed by the early bombing of his bunker. Now it turns out the incident never happened?the farmer simply discovered the downed helicopter lying in his field.

Elderly Iraqi farmer Ali Abid Minqash says, “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. When I realized 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 (Ba’ath) 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 became a living legend for a time. A poem about the “farmer who harvests both rice and Apaches” was written about him. He was presented with a commemorative plaque. Pictures of the crashed ‘copter were broadcast on Arab TV stations and Saddam called it part of the “people’s war.” On that famous April 4 videotape he said, “You probably remember the gallant Iraqi peasant who shot down a U.S. Apache using an old weapon, the Brno. Strike at your enemy strongly. Strike at your enemy with your strong faith wherever he comes close to you.”

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Am has been trying to track down the farmer ever since. They say, “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.”

There are hidden truths behind every legend.

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