Mideast airlines suspend Baghdad flights

Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia among others have suspended flights to Baghdad in compliance with security guidance

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Airlines from at least three countries suspended flights to Baghdad on Tuesday after bullets hit an airplane operated by budget carrier Dubai Aviation Corp, known as flydubai, as it was landing at Baghdad airport.

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

Turkish Airlines and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines (MEA) also suspended flights for the day without citing the shooting incident.

Company officials said Iraqi Airways and Iran's Caspian Airlines were operating flights to Baghdad on a normal schedule.

The Dubai budget carrier flydubai earlier said that damage had been discovered to the fuselage of one of its aircraft "consistent with small arms fire" after it landed at Baghdad on Monday.

All passengers disembarked normally and no medical attention was required. An investigation was underway to establish what happened, a flydubai spokesperson said.

Emirates had first announced it had suspended flights to Baghdad following the incident.

"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, according to Reuters news agency.

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.

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 militants of the Islamic State group might acquire weapons able to hit cruising airliners.

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

[With AFP and Reuters]

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