UAE Airlines Suspend Flights to Baghdad After Bullet Attack on Flydubai Jet

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A bullet hit the fuselage of a flydubai airliner on its descent into Baghdad, prompting several carriers to suspend their flights to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday.

Flight FZ215 was hit by "small arms fire" before landing on Monday but all passengers disembarked safely, a flydubai spokesperson told AFP.

The no-frills carrier, a sister firm of Emirates Airline, said it was working with Iraqi authorities to investigate the incident, adding that it will continue to fly to its other destinations in Iraq.

Other UAE airlines, including Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia, suspended their flights to Baghdad, as did Lebanon's Middle East Airlines.

"Emirates has suspended its services to Baghdad until further notice due to operational reasons," the Dubai-based airline said.

"We suspended it right now," Sheikh Majid al-Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations at Emirates, said on the sidelines of a Dubai conference.

Asked if this was because of the incident involving a flydubai aircraft, he said: "That's why we suspended it."

The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it had "suspended all flights to the Iraqi city with immediate effect and until further notice."

The website of Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia also showed that flights to Baghdad were not available.

Etihad and Air Arabia suspended flights to Baghdad in compliance with security guidance from the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority, the companies said.

MEA chief executive officer Mohammed al-Hout said Tuesday's Beirut-Baghdad service had been cancelled, although the airline's flights to other Iraqi cities were continuing as normal.

"As far as tomorrow's (flight) is concerned, we are waiting to assess the situation and see what steps are going to be taken before deciding," he told AFP.

Baghdad airport staff confirmed there had been disruption to flights after Monday's incident.

"The plane was able to land normally but some airlines have cancelled or delayed their flights today," one airport employee said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Flights from some of the other major airlines flying to Baghdad, such as Turkish Airlines and Royal Jordanian, were delayed, their websites showed.

"The exact timing of flights is not yet clear. Operation directors are currently having a meeting," a Turkish Airlines official told AFP in Ankara.

Western airlines flying over Iraq have taken extra precautions in recent months for fear that jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group might acquire weapons able to hit cruising airliners.

Baghdad International Airport is located west of the capital, near the border with Anbar province, which is largely controlled by ISIS militants.

In November, two car bombs exploded near Baghdad’s airport area, killing three people and wounding 12 others in total.

One car bomb targeted a United Nations convoy near Baghdad’s heavily guarded airport, wounding five people.

The UN said at the time that a three-vehicle convoy was hit by an explosion on its way from the airport to Baghdad's highly-fortified Green Zone, where its headquarters are located. No UN personnel were killed or injured.

In January 2014, two rockets hit the Baghdad airport complex but did not cause any damage or casualties.

Attacks on Baghdad airport remain rare, and the authorities managing it often trumpet security at the facility, where passengers must pass through at least 14 checkpoints before boarding an international flight.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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