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Emirates stops service to Peshawar after attack

Peshawar, June 25: Two major airlines suspended their service to Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan today, after a gun attack on a crowded airliner here that killed a passenger and raised fears of a concerted militant campaign against the country’s airports.

Emirates said in a statement that the attack, in which gunfire ripped through the fuselage of a Pakistan International Airlines flight as it came in to land, had caused it to suspend flights to Peshawar “until further notice”.

Etihad Airways said it had cancelled a flight scheduled to land here today, and would make further decisions based on an assessment of the security situation.

Although there was no claim of responsibility for yesterday’s attack, most suspicion centred on the Pakistani Taliban, which had threatened to attack foreign airlines in retaliation for a sweeping military drive into their stronghold of North Waziristan that started on June 15.

The attack occurred late yesterday, as the Pakistan Airlines flight from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia approached the runway with at least 198 passengers on board.

Airline officials said the gunmen had aimed specifically at the highly flammable fuel tank as they sought to blow up the aircraft, as well as the cockpit, to kill the pilot.

“It would have been a disaster had they hit the fuel tank or cockpit,” said a senior Pakistan International Airlines official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to discuss the matter with the press.

It was the third incident of violence to affect Pakistan’s airports this month as international airlines review the safety of flying to a country with an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency.

On June 8, a group of militants stormed Pakistan’s biggest airport in Karachi in a commando-style attack that prompted the army to start bombarding Taliban positions in tribal areas. In the second incident, a passenger plane carrying an anti-government preacher was diverted at the last minute from Islamabad to Lahore after clashes.

 
 
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