New Yorkers received a shock this morning when a 'special edition' of their newspaper of record, the New York Times, displayed the screaming headline 'IRAQ WAR ENDS.'

It turned out to be an elaborately-produced and impressively-realistic prank, supposedly produced by the activist group The Yes Men.

Dated 'July 4, 2009', the paper is a futuristic fantasy in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, controversial New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman resigns, and a story in its business section reads 'Public Relations Industry Forecasts a Series of Massive Layoffs'.

Dozens of volunteers distributed hard copies of the newspaper on the streets of New York, while a companion website offered a video and Flash ads for banking giant HSBC.

While the effort was intended to be anonymous, the website Gawker linked an email intended for those volunteers sent out last night to a website associated with the Yes Men.

The group, which was the subject of a 2004 documentary, have conducted pranks around the world, in one case appearing on the BBC as a Dow Chemical spokesman to announce a $12bn payout to the victims of the Bhopal disaster.

Other 'victims' have included the WTO, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and ExxonMobil.

Click here to download a PDF of the full newspaper parody