22 August 2019
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Airlines suspend, divert flights as violent protests in Iraq continue

Sunday, 15 July 2018 21:17
Iraqi protesters shout slogans as they demonstrate in Najaf International Airport on July 13, 2018, against poor services, unemployment, and corruption. (Photo: AFP/Haidar Hamdani) Iraqi protesters shout slogans as they demonstrate in Najaf International Airport on July 13, 2018, against poor services, unemployment, and corruption. (Photo: AFP/Haidar Hamdani)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – As violent protests continue to rage in Iraq’s southern provinces, some airlines in the region have suspended flights to the country for security reasons.

Royal Jordanian Airline, Flydubai, and Kuwait Airways have all suspended flights to the Iraqi city of Najaf while flights from Iran have been diverted to the capital Baghdad.

On Friday, air traffic was put on hold as protestors demanding an end to unemployment and corruption in the government stormed the Najaf International Airport. Since then, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has dissolved the Najaf Airport Council and assigned new staff.

Protests erupted last week in Iraq’s oil-rich southern province of Basra before spreading to other cities across the country.

Demonstrators calling for better public services have faced off with security forces with at least four people dead and many others injured.

The Dubai state-owned airline Flydubai said it halted flights to Najaf “due to the disruption on the ground,” adding it would monitor the situation. Flydubai operates daily return flights from Dubai to Najaf.

In a statement released on Saturday, Kuwait Airways said it would either divert flights which have already been booked to Najaf or refund their clients.

The Royal Jordanian Airline said it would halt services between its capital Amman to Najaf “until further notice.” The airline has previously stopped service to Iraq’s Mosul amid the ongoing war in the city.

A spokesperson for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, meanwhile, said planes from Iran would divert passengers to Baghdad instead.

“Due to problems at Najaf airport…Iranian planes will take their passengers to Baghdad airport,” spokesperson Reza Jafarzadeh was quoted as saying by Reuters without revealing how many flights were affected.

The Iraqi government has taken measures to crack down on the demonstrations. It shut down access to social media throughout the country, including the Kurdistan Region, and ordered an internet blackout in most of Iraq.

Source: Kurdistan 24

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