Emirati airlines halt flights to Baghdad after shooting
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Multiple airlines from the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday they were cancelling flights to Baghdad after a passenger plane arriving from the Mideast's busiest airport in Dubai came under fire as it landed in the Iraqi capital.
A prolonged suspension could seriously limit the travel options for Iraqi travelers and foreign businesspeople, diplomats and aid workers who rely on busy international transit hubs in the oil-rich Gulf.
Discount carrier FlyDubai said its flight 215 was struck on the fuselage by what appeared to small-arms fire. All passengers were able to disembark normally and none required medical attention, the Dubai government-owned carrier said.
Passengers heading back to Dubai were put on a different plane, the airline said, and a flight due to depart to Baghdad on Tuesday has been cancelled.
Dubai-based Emirates, the region's biggest airline, separately said it is suspending flights to and from the Iraqi capital because of "operational and safety concerns" until further notice.
"We remain committed to our customers in Iraq and hope to resume services to Baghdad as soon as operational conditions allow," the airline said in an emailed statement.
Emirates will continue to fly to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and the southern oil hub of Basra.
Etihad Airways, based in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi, said it was also suspending operations to Baghdad indefinitely following a directive from the Gulf country's civil aviation authority.
Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that bullets hit the FlyDubai flight as it touched down Monday. It was unclear who was behind the shooting and whether the plane was deliberately targeted.
Baghdad International Airport is surrounded by a vast and heavily guarded security perimeter lined with concrete blast walls, making it difficult for insurgents to fire on incoming planes.
Several airlines rerouted flights that pass through Iraqi airspace but aren't bound for the country last year as a precaution against Islamic State militants, who have seized large parts of the north and west of Iraq.
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