Baghdad attack on FlyDubai passenger jet blamed on IS

Baghdad attack on FlyDubai passenger jet blamed on IS
Analysis: Questions remain over who was responsible for shooting at a FlyDubai plane landing in Iraq, after Iraqi security officials blame different armed groups.
3 min read
28 January, 2015
Two passengers were injured during the FlyDubai attack [Archive photo/AFP]

Flights to Baghdad have been cancelled, after two people were injured when a FlyDubai aircraft came under fire while landing in the Iraqi capital yesterday.

Emirati airlines suspended flights after the aircraft, carrying 200 passengers, was damaged in the attack.

The Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis) has been accused of being behind the attack.

Sniper fire

"The aircraft was shot at by a 7.62mm American sniper rifle," said a member of Iraq's parliamentary security and defence committee, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The bottom part was hit by eight bullets that penetrated the passengers' luggage [compartment], while nine other bullets hit the wing and the engine hood. It seems that the aircraft was attacked from two directions by several gunmen, with a deliberate intention to bring it down. The aircraft miraculously survived the attack."

It appears the gunmen fired from al-Radwaniyah, a town 15km from the airport. While IS fighters made a withdrawal from the town in mid-October 2014, the type of weapon used in the attack ruled out the idea that locals randomly shot at the aircraft as it was landing, he said.

IS blamed

But Colonel Hussein al-Saidi, who leads efforts to secure the airport, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the IS was behind the attack.

"The attack was a successful infiltration of a sensitive area in the vicinity of the airport," he said.

"The perpetrators opened fire before leaving quickly. Perhaps the attackers sought revenge against the Emirates for being part of the international alliance against the IS."

The attack follows the expiry of a one-month ultimatum given by armed groups to Abu Dhabi to remove militants' names from its terrorism list.

     If you put our honourable factions on the terrorism list, you will be put on a list of hell.
- Hassan Salem, Asaib Ahl al-Haq

"Another group, other than the IS, may be involved in the attack," said the parliamentary defence official.

"It could have been carried out by militias listed as terrorists by the Emirates."

Revenge attack?

In a press conference held in Baghdad, Hassan Salem, a spokesperson for the Sadrist Asaib Ahl al-Haq armed group, addressed the Emirati government, saying: "If you put our honourable factions on the terrorism list, you will be put on a list of hell."

But Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesperson Brigadier General Saad Maan dismissed the shooting as "accidental".

"The aircraft was preceded by 72 other flights on the same route, and followed by seven others," he said. "This proves that the attack was accidental, and the aircraft was not the target."

An Iraqi military source said the attack would "eventually be blamed on the IS".

"In reality, there are strong doubts," he said. "This is evident in the fact that the IS cannot identify the aircraft from a relatively large distance from the airport. This means that militias inside the airport leaked information about the arrival of the flight in order to target it this way."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.