North Africa: Death in the Desert

Death in the Desert

They were on a mission of mercy, but that didn't stop the missiles. Two DC-7s chartered by the U.S. Agency for International Development were flying over a desolate no-man's-land in Mauritania near the Moroccan border when they came under fire. The planes were ferrying insecticide to Morocco to combat the plague of locusts that has ravaged the continent this year.

"All of a sudden, the first airplane was hit," said Sergio Tomassoni, 64, who was riding in the DC-7 trailing behind. "We saw the smoke and a big ball of fire." The aircraft, shorn of its right wing, smashed to the...

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