Anti-Moroccan rebels accepted responsibility Saturday for the downing of a U.S. aircraft chartered by the Agency for International Development, saying the plane was misidentified.
A communique by the Polisario Front rebels said the aircraft, shot down while flying in a Morocco combat zone on Thursday, has been found and that the bodies of the five American crew members will be turned over quickly.The guerrillas expressed "profound regret" for the accidental shooting and its "deep-felt sympathy and condolences to the families of the deceased."
They said one of its reconnaissance patrols had been under constant attack by the Moroccan Air Force before Thursday's incident.
When two DC-7 planes chartered by U.S. AID were seen at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, the patrol thought they were C-130 Moroccan Air Force planes and fired at the aircraft, the Polisario communique said.
The DC-7s, on a flight from Dakar, Senegal, to Agadir, Morocco, carried no national or military markings.
"It is to be noted that the reconnaissance unit had been under constant bombing by the Moroccan Air Force and in this state of mind reacted and opened fire on the planes," the communique said.
"The destruction of one of the two (U.S.) planes was not premeditated," the communique said. "It was the result of coincidence of war circumstances that pervaded in the area. The planes surprised the reconnaissance unit,which had no means of identifying them."
The second chartered plane also was damaged but landed safely.