Since 1991, two Iraqi jumbo jets have been parked at an airport in Tunisia. One was a plane belonging to the dictator. Now the two Boeing 747s are to be scrapped.
Millions of people all over the world have already seen the area around the Tunisian towns of Tozeur and Nefta without realizing it. In the area, scenes for the Star Wars movies were filmed. The Tunisian countryside represents the desert planet Tatooine. Anakin Skywalker grew up in the fantasy city of Mos Espa on Tatooine – he later became the famous Darth Vader.
Meanwhile, at Tozeur-Nefta airport, relics of a real man can be found, who put many people in worse fear than any movie villain could ever do: Saddam Hussein. On the eve of the Second Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqi dictator had two Iraqi Airways Boeing 747s brought to safety at the Tunisian airport to save them from being bombed. But Iraq lost the war. The jets were never returned and Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006 after the Third Gulf War.
29 of 37 years parked in Tunisia
And so the jets are still standing at the Tunisian airport. They are a Boeing 747-200 with the registration YI-AGP and a Boeing 747 SP with the registration YI-ALM, which served Saddam Hussein as government plane. The livery used to be green and white, but the planes were repainted white for the transfer. Today the green colour partly shimmers through again.
Both planes are more than 37 years old. For 29 of these years they have been parked at Tozeur-Nefta airport. According to local media they have been maintained there and seem to be in good condition, at least from the outside, recent pictures show. In 2010 Iraqi authorities are said to have tried in vain to sell the Jumbo Jets.
Iraq pays millions
According to Tunisian media, the two countries have now agreed that Iraq will pay 4.8 million euros for parking fees and maintenance work. It remains unclear whether any money has ever been paid before. Iraqi authorities are now considering having the two jumbo jets dismantled.
That means recyclable parts are sold or reused and the rest of the plane is scrapped. A similar plan apparently existed in the past, but only for the one Boeing 747, while the ex-government jet was to be preserved.