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Mon 28 Jul 2014 06:36 PM

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Emirates set to change flight routes to avoid Iraq

Dubai-based airline planning to stop flying over Iraq as gov't in Baghdad struggles to contain insurgents

Emirates set to change flight routes to avoid Iraq

Dubai's Emirates airline said on Monday it will avoid Iraqi airspace, as the government in Baghdad struggles to contain Islamic insurgents who have captured vast areas of the country.

After Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down earlier this month by a ground-to-air-missile in eastern Ukraine, airlines around the world have been rethinking flight routes to avoid airspace over countries facing conflicts.

Emirates, along with Europe's largest airline Lufthansa and other rivals, have called for an airline summit to discuss the industry's response to the downing of an airliner, saying international security protocols should be reviewed.

"Emirates is taking precautionary measures and is currently working on alternative routing plans for flights using Iraqi airspace," the Gulf airline said in a statement.

"We are closely monitoring the situation along with international agencies."

Presently, Iraq falls under the flight path from Asia to Europe, raising security fears for airline operators of attack similar to the one on the Malaysian jetliner in Ukraine. Emirates is one of the Middle East's largest airline with dozens of flights each day to and from Europe.

The statement did not specify which alternate flight route could be used.

Iraqi police on Monday found the corpses of 15 people, including three women shot in the head in militia-style killings, a bloody start to the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, security sources said.

Fears have been growing of a relapse to the dark days of sectarian civil war which peaked in 2006-2007 since the Sunni ultra-hardline group Islamic State seized large swathes of the north last month.

Emirates also suspended all its flights to Kiev and none of its planes fly over the Ukraine airspace.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) plans a meeting of top officials from the airline industry and air traffic controllers to discuss the respective roles of each in airspace over conflict zones.

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