Turkish Airlines temporarily suspends flights to three Iraqi cities
ANKARA - Turkish Airlines has temporarily suspended flights to three major cities in Iraq, a spokesman said on Tuesday, as Iraqi forces press a major offensive to retake the city of Mosul from jihadists.
Flights by Turkey's flag carrier to the Iraqi cities of Najaf, Basra and Sulaimaniyah have been halted, the airline's spokesman Yahya Ustun said in a statement.
However flights to capital Baghdad and the main city of Iraqi Kurdistan, Arbil, are continuing as usual after the cancellation of Monday's afternoon services, he added.
The airline declined to give a reason for the suspension of the flights to the other three cities.
Basra in southern Iraq and the pilgrimage centre of Najaf are both majority Shiite cities while Sulaimaniyah is in the mountainous east of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The move comes as Iraqi forces backed by the United States seek to retake Mosul from Islamic State (IS) jihadists who seized Iraq's second city in June 2014.
The offensive has raised tensions between the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and mainly Sunni Turkey, which has raised alarm that Mosul's Sunni identity risks being changed.