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Airlines Suspend Flights To Pakistani City After Shooting


The largest airline in the Middle East says it has suspended flights to a city in Pakistan. Emirates says it will no longer fly to Peshawar, at least for now. This is after someone opened fire on a Pakistani passenger jet that was coming in to land there. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on a blow to Pakistan at a time of crisis.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Pakistanis have lived with violence for many years. Bombings and assassinations make headlines one day and are forgotten the next. But the events onboard flight PK-756 will surely be seared in the collective memory. Maqnoon Begum was sitting next to her 9-year-old daughter. As the Airbus came in to land, someone opened fire from the ground. A bullet hit Begum in the head. She died later, going to the hospital. The airline, Pakistan International Airlines, says the bullet came through the window. Two crew were also injured. Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan, is regularly targeted by militants. The city's the gateway to the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Police are now hunting for the shooter. They've raided neighborhoods around the airport, detaining several hundred people. A few weeks ago, another of Pakistan's international airports came under attack in its biggest city, Karachi. Taliban and Uzbek militants stormed in, beginning a five-hour siege in which more than 35 people died. That prompted Pakistan's generals to launch a major offensive against the militants in their main mountain haven, North Waziristan. The army claims it's now killed hundreds of them. The Taliban is vowing revenge. The big question is was the attack that killed Maqnoon Begumon on flight PK-756 part of that? The army's offensive is presenting the government with another major problem. More than 450,000 people have left North Waziristan to escape the fighting. About a third are children. Most are staying with relatives. They have many needs, though, from money for food to education and health. The government's already being accused of being ill-prepared. Khalil Rehman Wazir was among the multitude who poured out of the hills.

KHALIL REHMAN WAZIR: (Through translator) People are going to get angry. They were asking themselves, what can we do? We've done nothing wrong.

REEVES: The risk is that this anger will turn into sympathy for the militants, whom Pakistan's trying to destroy. Philip Reeves. NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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