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Etihad Airways to avoid Iraqi conflict airspace

© AFP/File | A car passes in front of headquaters of Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi on March 13, 2014A car passes in front of headquaters of Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi on March 13, 2014

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways announced on Saturday that it will reroute flights over Iraq in the wake of US air strikes on Islamist State (IS) fighters there.

"Etihad Airways has announced that it will reroute its flights to avoid conflict airspace in Iraq," a statement by the carrier said.

"The decision follows the deterioration of the security situation in parts of the country.

"The safety of Etihad Airways? passengers and staff is of paramount importance, and the airline will continue to monitor the security situation closely."

On Thursday, Etihad also said it was suspending flights to Iraqi Kurdistan's capital of Arbil because of fighting in northern Iraq.

The first US air strikes on Friday struck IS positions and at least one convoy of vehicles carrying militants west of Arbil.

However, "flights to Basra and Baghdad, which have a daily risk assessment, continue to operate as normal," Etihad said on Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration in Washington banned all US civilian flights over Iraq just hours after American warplanes Friday bombed positions held by the jihadists, who have occupied swathes of northern Iraq.

British Airways has said it will no longer overfly Iraq, as have Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss -- joining Air France, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, which quietly opted to do so over the past two weeks.