DHL suspends Iraqi flights after attack

DHL suspends Iraqi flights after attack

DHL over the weekend suspended all flights to Iraq after a a shoulder-fired missile struck a jet operated by the express courier service DHL over Iraq.

The U.S. confirmed that the missile had hit the jet, igniting the plane's engine and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Baghdad International Airport. None of the jet's crew were injured in the incident.

An official said the civilian Airbus 300 cargo plane was struck by a SAM-7 ground-to-air missile shortly after takeoff on a flight between Baghdad and Bahrain. The plane's engine was visibly burning and it left a massive trail of smoke as it landed at the airport.

DHL announced that it was suspending flights until at least Monday. Jordan's Royal Wings, the only commercial airline offering passenger service into Baghdad, also suspended its flights on Saturday.

Authorities said they are investigating the attack, which marks the first time a civilian plane has been forced to land as the result of violence in postwar Iraq. There have been eight reported instances of ground-to-air missiles being fired at civilian aircraft in Iraq, but this was the first incident to force a plane down.

"Pending the finding of the investigations, as well as the full assessment of the security situation, DHL will then be in a better position to conduct a further review on how to continue any operations in Iraq," said Patricia Thomson, a DHL spokeswoman. She added that the company did not want to put its employees at risk.

The U.S. has relied heavily on DHL's fleet of Airbus A-300, Antonov AN-12 and Boeing 727 aircraft to deliver equipment, mail and other essentials to Iraq. DHL is one of the largest mail and supplies delivery contractors for the U.S. military in Iraq, with multiple daily flights into Baghdad carrying as much as 50 tons of daily letters between soldiers and their families.

There are currently 110 flights into Baghdad each day - 70 official or military and 40 civilian or cargo jets, according to the news wire Agence France Presse.