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U.S. lawmakers' plane fired upon

  • Story Highlights
  • Onboard: Rep. Bud Cramer; Sens. Mel Martinez, Richard Shelby, James Inhofe
  • "I saw a shell or something," Shelby says
  • Flares were deployed to attract rockets away from plane
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. military plane with three U.S. senators and a U.S. House member onboard came under rocket fire while leaving Baghdad, Iraq, for Amman, Jordan, Thursday night and had to take evasive maneuvers.

"I was looking out the window, a little small window, and I saw a shell or something," said Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama in a phone interview from Amman, where the plane landed safely. "And then I see a flare. Our plane started maneuvering and changing directions and shaking all around."

The rockets were "near misses," he told CNN affiliate WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama.

The flares were part of the missile avoidance system onboard the C-130 aircraft carrying the Congress members. The flares' heat are used as a countermeasure to attract rockets that have heat-seeking guidance systems.

Onboard with Shelby were Rep. Bud Cramer, an Alabama Democrat; Sens. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican; and James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.

"Our plane leaving Iraq was fired upon and it was a close call, but this is something that our men and women in combat face every day," Cramer said in a statement. "The flight crew was outstanding and I credit them for the way they handled the situation." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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