Iraq airport dismisses reports of Swedish airline attack

Aviation officials from Iraq's Kurdish region on Saturday dismissed reports that a Swedish airliner had been targeted by a missile as it took off with 130 passengers on board.

According to the Swedish TT news agency, the pilots of a Nordic Airways

MD-83 jet saw flashes in the sky on Thursday as they took off from Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq and feared they may be under attack.

But the chairman of the Sulaimaniyah Airport Authority, Kamaran Ahmed, said a local investigation found no evidence that a missile was fired and blamed the scare on bright lights being used on the ground.

“We think that the object that had been noticed by the pilot ‘suspiciously’

was a special type of ‘high intensity lighting projector’ mounted on vehicles usually used by hunters in the area,” he said, in a statement in English.

The beam could also have been from a light used by farmers during a rush to harvest in the region, the statement added, while insisting that security forces had searched a 30-kilometre (18-mile) diameter area around the airport.

The Kurdish regional government also said there was no reason to worry.

“No plane at the Sulaimaniyah International Airport has come under attack.

This is untrue and baseless news,” its spokesman Khalid Saleh told AFP.

Northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region is proud that it has managed to escape the worst of the violence that has gripped the centre and south of the country since the US-led invasion of March 2003.

The mountainous region has opened air links to several European and regional destinations and launched an international advertising drive designed to lure tourists and investors to Sulaimaniyah and its capital Arbil.

Nordic flies from Stockholm to Sulaimaniyah once a week.