Baghdad commercial flights stop

Jordan's Royal Wings has suspended the only commercial flights to Baghdad after a plane belonging to international express courier DHL was hit by a missile over the Iraqi capital.

    Royal wings will decide soon whether it will resume flights

    The airline will decide on Tuesday whether it will restart its service to the war-battered city, an official told reporters on Saturday. 

    "The flights of tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday are cancelled. After November 25 the company will decide if it will restart its flights to Baghdad or not," said the official from the airline's parent company Royal Jordanian. 

    He confirmed the decision was taken because of the near miss suffered earlier in the day by the DHL plane, which was forced to make an emergency landing after being hit by a SA-7 surface-to-air missile. 

    Flights to Baghdad

    Royal Wings started flights to Baghdad in August and this month started running a daily flight using a 40-seat propeller aircraft.

    Threat of missiles has prevented
    the reopening of Baghdad Airport

    The flights were open only to journalists, businessmen, aid workers, coalition officials and members of the interim Governing Council. Royal Wings has never been targeted by attacks. 

    All of the previous attempts to shoot down planes at the airport were against military or official aircraft, not civilian planes, according to the Iraqi transport ministry. 

    But the airport still has a total of 110 flights a day, 70 of them official or military and 40 of them civilian charter or cargo flights, the ministry said. 

    The threat of missiles has prevented the reopening of Baghdad airport to scheduled civilian flights throughout the seven months since it was occupied by US troops.

    DHL attack

    Airport officials confirmed on Saturday that the DHL plane made an emergency landing after being hit by a surface-to-air missile. 

    Baghdad airport still sees a total
    of 110 flights a day

    But a DHL official at Baghdad airport told reporters the plane suffered an engine fire after take-off from Baghdad and returned to the airport. He said the cause of the fire was under investigation. 

    "The fire was extinguished and it returned to Baghdad, landing safe and sound," the official said.

    A Brussels-based spokesman for DHL, Xavier de Buck, said an Airbus A300 had been on its way to the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain when it was forced to turn back to Baghdad and make an emergency landing. "The three people who were on board are totally fine," he said.

    The incident has prompted DHL officials to review their operations in the war-torn country.

    "Certainly for today our operations are suspended and I would
    imagine for tomorrow also," said a spokeswoman for DHL.

    "At the moment there are discussions ongoing as to whether we will actually suspend operations (for the long-term)," spokeswoman Patricia Thomson added.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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