Businessmen Killed in Iraq Plane Crash

Reuters reports that the chief executive of private equity group MerchantBridge and two JPMorgan executives were among seven people killed when a small plane crashed in northern Iraq.

The plane went down shortly after takeoff on Friday from Sulaimaniya airport in Kurdistan.

MerchantBridge CEO Basil al-Rahim and Abdallah Lahoud, a partner in the company, died in the crash, MerchantBridge said in a statement.

Airport officials said the businessmen on the plane had flown to Sulaimaniya to visit the offices of AsiaCell, one of Iraq's major mobile phone service providers, which is partially owned by Qatar Telecommunications.

Bloomberg reports that a mechanical problem led to a fire in one of the engines.

Rahim was a member of the AsiaCell board of directors, AsiaCell said in a statement. JPMorgan executives Murad Megalli and Javier Zurita also were killed in the crash, along with the three crew members on board, it said.

MerchantBridge said last October it had launched an equity fund in Iraqi equities. An executive said at the time that the company had over $1.5 billion worth of investments in the Iraq.

Speaking from Beirut today, MerchantBridge Chairman, Abdulaziz Al Abdulkader said:

"Our thoughts are with the families of our much loved brothers, friends and colleagues Basil and Abdallah. We will pray for them and may God have mercy on their souls. We give thanks for all they have achieved in their lives. Speaking as Chairman of MerchantBridge, I would also like to ask that they be remembered for everything they have contributed to the commercial regeneration of the Middle East and in particular to Iraq.

"The partners and employees of MerchantBridge intend to continue the valued work of our colleagues Basil and Abdallah. We ask for a period of calm reflection whilst we decide how we best continue to advise our investors and partners."

(Sources: Reuters, PR Newswire, Bloomberg)

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