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Business executives killed in Iraq plane crash

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - 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, officials said on Saturday.

The plane went down shortly after takeoff on Friday from an airport at Sulaimaniya in Iraq's semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

MerchantBridge Chief Executive Officer 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.

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.

Megalli "had been with J.P. Morgan for more than a decade and successfully led our businesses in Turkey, Central Asia and the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) region," JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon and two other executives said in an email to employees.

Zurita had been head of telecom investment for Europe, Middle East and Africa and had worked for the bank for four years, the email said.

A JPMorgan representative could not immediately specify the victims' nationalities.

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 Iraq.

(Reporting by Muhanad Mohammmed; additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; writing by Jim Loney)

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