Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss, Qantas, others alter routes
Trump outlines next move as Iran claims 80 troops killed

By Henry Ojelu & Lawani Mikairu with Agency report

As the face-off between the United State and Iran escalates, following a retaliatory airstrike by Iran on two US military airbases in Iraq, airlines across the world have cancelled flights to Dubia, United Arab Emirate, Iran and Iraq.

It will be recalled that Iran had, early yesterday,  threatened to bomb Israel and Dubai if the United States retaliates for its ballistic missile strike at two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

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This came as President Donald Trump  said his government was reviewing the situation and will take  appropriate action at the right time.

The rocket attacks at the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province and a base in Erbil yesterday came amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran following the US  killing of Iranian military commander  Qassem Soleimani  in    Iraq    last week. Iran had pledged severe retailiation.

Although Iranian government claimed that about 80 US troops were killed in the attack, US government insisted that no casualties were recorded in the attack.

Following heightened tensions in the area, commercial airlines have canceled all scheduled flights to Iran, Iraq and most parts of the Middle East.

Meanwhile Nigeria’s only carrier going to the Middle East, Dubai, Air Peace airline told Vanguard that they have not announced the cancellation of their flight scheduled for today, (Thursday) to Dubai. As at the time of filing this report, the airline Communication Executive , Sterley Olisa said he will get back to Vanguard if they change their current decision

Addressing the nation on the next move after the attack,  Trump said Iran “appears to be standing down”,  a sign that Washington may not seek a response.

“As long as I am leader, Iran will never have nuclear weapon,” he said.

He said he will ask NATO “to become much more involved” in the Middle East”.

Iran deliberately evaded US forces in missile attack

Iran is believed to have deliberately sought to avoid US military casualties, according to US and European government sources familiar with intelligence assessments.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Iranians were thought to have targeted the attacks to miss US forces to prevent the crisis from escalating out of control while still sending a message of Iranian resolve.

A source in Washington said overnight that early indications were of no US casualties, while other US officials declined comment.

Iraq ‘should not pay price for external rivalries’-UN

The UN mission in Iraq said the country should not be made to “pay the price” in the escalating conflict between Tehran and Washington.

In a statement, the UN mission said that the latest strikes “again violate Iraqi sovereignty”.

“We call for urgent restraint and a resumption of dialogue. Iraq should not pay the price for external rivalries,” the statement added.

NATO chief condemns Iran rocket attacks

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attacks and called on Iran to refrain from further violence.

“Allies continue to consult & remain committed to our training mission in Iraq,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

A NATO official said that there were no casualties among the troops on its training mission in Iraq, though on Tuesday the alliance said it was moving some personnel out because of the increased danger following Soleimani’s killing.

Airlines avoiding flying through Iran and Iraq airspace

A growing number of airlines including Air France, Dutch KLM and German Lufthansa said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace for flights to the region.

The region is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

Polish LOT, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines and Australian carrier Qantas have also altered their routes.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, said it was recommending airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Lufthansa halts overflying Iran and Iraq

German airline giant Lufthansa said it would not overfly Iran and Iraq “until further notice”.

“We are no longer overflying Iran and Iraq until further notice,” a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP, adding that Wednesday’s daily Frankfurt-Tehran flight was cancelled, while Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

France condemns the strikes

“France would like to highlight again the importance of continuing the fight against Islamic State, while respecting the sovereignty of Iraq,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Iraqi PM warned about imminent attack from Iran: spokesman

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi received a verbal message from Iran informing him its retaliation to the US killing of Soleimani was either imminent or under way, his spokesman said in a statement.

Tehran told Abdul Mahdi it would only target locations where US forces were present but did not specify the locations, his spokesman said.

Abdul Mahdi simultaneously received a call from the US while missiles were falling on the two air bases, the spokesman said.

He said he warned Iraqi forces as soon as he received word of the attack.

Abdul Mahdi called on all sides to practise self-restraint and adhere to international agreements, adding that Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its soil.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders call for region to be kept out of rivalries

The leaders of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region said that the support of a US-led military coalition in fighting ISIL  (also known as  ISIS)  was vital and urged its member states not to allow the group’s revival.

The regional president, prime minister, and parliamentary speaker expressed concern at the escalation.

“In regards to the recent events, and in particular this morning’s, the Kurdistan Region reiterates that military solution will in no way solve the problems,” they said in a statement.

“The Kurdistan Region supports de-escalation of the situation and seeks dialogue and diplomatic solution to the problems. It also seeks stability and peace and urges all parties to refrain from dragging the Kurdistan Region into the rivalries.”

Turkish minister to visit Iraq to ease tensions

Turkey’s foreign minister will visit Iraq to try to ease tensions, the foreign ministry said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will travel to Iraq as part of Ankara’s “intensified diplomatic efforts to alleviate the escalated tension in the aftermath of recent developments in the region”, the ministry said in a statement.

Cavusoglu also spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by phone, it said in a separate statement.

China urges restraint

China urged restraint from all sides, saying Beijing would play a “responsible role” in helping to defuse tensions.

“It is not in the interest of any party that the situation in the Middle East worsens further,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

Geng said China would “play a responsible role in promoting a de-escalation of the situation as soon as possible”.

Any country attacking Israel will be dealt ‘strongest blow’: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhahu warned that his country would strike back hard against anyone who attacked it, as he reiterated his support for the US killing of Soleimani.

“Whoever tries to attack us will be dealt the strongest blow,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.

He said that Israel “stands completely” beside US President Donald Trump’s decision, saying Trump should be congratulated for acting “swiftly, boldly and resolutely”.

Spain says it has withdrawn some of its troops from Iraq

Spain has pulled out some of its troops from Iraq due to security concerns, acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said.



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