Sweden Suspends Iraq Flights

Sweden has suspended commercial flights to and from Iraq after an apparent rocket attack against a passenger jet as it took off from the northern city of Sulaimaniyah, the Nordic country's aviation authority said Tuesday.

Sweden Suspends Iraq Flights
In the incident last Wednesday, pilots of the Nordic Airways plane carrying 130 passengers noticed a trail of light arching over the aircraft just after takeoff, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Anders Lundblad said.

The McDonnell Douglas MD83 plane was not hit, and arrived safely in Stockholm.

Lundblad said the incident was being investigated, but that preliminary information suggested "some kind of rocket" was fired at the plane.

The authority suspended all commercial airline traffic between Sweden and Iraq last week pending a review of the security situation in northern Iraq.

While many helicopters have been shot down  in Iraq, only one commercial airplane has been known to have been struck. In November 2003, a plane operated by the global delivery service DHL was struck by a shoulder-fired missile near Baghdad and forced to make an emergency landing with its wing aflame. The three crew members were unhurt.

It also is rare for such violence to occur in Sulaimaniyah, a city in Iraq's relatively peaceful autonomous Kurdish region, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The Swedish decision affected two small airlines: Nordic Airways, which flies once a week between Stockholm and Sulaimaniyah, and Viking Airlines, which operates four flights a week between Stockholm and Irbil, also in northern Iraq.

Nordic Airways had rebooked passengers departing from Iraq on other airlines, while some 3,000 people booked on Viking Airlines flights were stranded in Iraq, the aviation authority said.

Sweden is home to more than 70,000 Iraqi immigrants, many of whom come from the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.

Mikael Wangdahl, Chief Executive of Nordic Airways said the incident was immediately reported to air traffic controllers and the U.S. military. The pilots then were advised to continue the flight, but to take a shorter route.

Passengers and cabin crew did not notice what happened, Wangdahl said, but crew members were briefed about it after the plane landed in Stockholm.

The Sulaimaniyah airport, a former Iraqi military landing strip used in the Iran-Iraq war and later deserted, was reopened by Kurds cooperating with U.S. forces in early 2003, weeks before the start of the war.


AP
Last Mod: 14 Ağustos 2007, 14:09
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