WASHINGTON: The Obama administration ordered US airlines not to fly over Iraq following the first air strikes there yesterday, while carriers from other nations said they were suspending service to the Iraqi city of Arbil.
A Federal Aviation Administration notice to pilots says the ban was prompted by the 'potentially hazardous situation created by fighting between militants' associated with the ISIS and 'Iraqi security forces and their allies.'
The ban applies to all US-registered planes except those operated by foreign carriers and to FAA-licensed pilots. Flights operated with US government permission and for emergency situations are exempt. The FAA had allowed limited flights over Iraq to altitudes above 30,000 feet.
Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa cancelled flights to and from Arbil. Lufthansa and subsidiary Austrian Airlines said the suspension would continue through Monday, while Turkish Airlines said it has halted Arbil flights until further notice.
However, Turkish Airlines' flights to other Iraqi cities were not immediately affected, the company said.
Lufthansa said it was already avoiding Iraqi airspace on flights between Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
British Airways also said it was temporarily suspending flights over Iraq 'and will keep the situation under review.'
US intelligence and aviation officials said the US had no prior intelligence to indicate separatists intended to target civil aircraft, and the first indication that separatists had an operable SA-11 missile system was on July 17, the day of the Malaysia airlines flight crash.