DUBAI (Reuters, AFP) - A bullet hit the fuselage of a flydubai airliner on its descent into Baghdad, lightly wounding a young girl and prompting many carriers on Tuesday to suspend their flights, officials said.
“There was no consequence other than a slight injury to a young girl. The pilot landed and he was not aware of what had happened,” Transport Minister Baqr Jabr al-Zubaidi told reporters at the airport.
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, said it was working with Iraqi authorities to investigate the incident, adding that it would continue to fly to its other destinations in Iraq.
Other UAE carriers, including Emirates, Etihad and Air Arabia, suspended their flights to Baghdad, as did Turkish Airlines and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines (MEA).
“After landing at Baghdad International Airport (BGW) on Jan 26, 2015, damage to the aircraft fuselage consistent with small arms fire was discovered on flydubai flight FZ 215,” a company spokesman said.
The aviation official said Iraq had briefly suspended air traffic on Monday following the incident but that most flights had resumed on Tuesday morning.
Earlier, Emirates Airlines said it suspended flights to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday, according to an Emirates executive.
"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.
MEA chief executive officer Mohammad 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 militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) 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.