Swedish flights to Iraq still grounded after attack

Swedish flights to and from Iraq remain grounded a week after a Nordic Airways plane was reportedly targeted by a missile shortly after take-off from Iraq with 130 passengers on board, Sweden's Civil Aviation Authority said Thursday.

“We are still waiting for information … from the US military … about the security situation and threat scenario in the area, to make sure the airspace is safe,” Anders Lundblad, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told AFP.

The agency grounded flights on August 10 a day after the pilots of a Nordic Airways MD-83 aircraft reported seeing flashes of light after taking off from Sulaimaniyah Airport in northern Iraq.

“We don’t expect to be able to review our decision until sometime next week,” Lundblad said.

Aviation officials from Iraq’s Kurdish region have dismissed reports that the airliner was targeted. But Lundblad said there was no doubt that the airliner had been fired upon.

“We can’t prove it, but we have three people in the cockpit who said they saw it. It is clear that it was some form of shelling. But we don’t know if they (the attackers) knew it was a Swedish plane,” he said.

He said the plane was at an altitude of 1,400 metres (4,500 feet) when the incident occurred.

Nordic Airways, which flies from Stockholm to Sulaimaniyah once a week, and Viking Airlines are the only Swedish carriers that fly to Iraq.

According to Lundblad, at least 3,000 passengers were stranded in Iraq as a result of the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to ground flights indefinitely.