By Maha Ellawati and Aimen Eljali.
Benghazi/Tripoli, 13 June 2013:
Qatar Airways has suspended flights between Benghazi and Doha following an incident yesterday . . .[restrict]at Benghazi’s Benina Airport when protestors prevented non-Libyan passengers arriving from Doha from going through passport control. Said to be mostly Bangladeshis, they were forced to fly back to Qatar. Libyan passengers heading to Doha were also reported prevented from flying.
According to a member of Benghazi Local Council who did not want to be named, the protestors were members of the Ezzedine Al-Waqwaq brigade. He said they accused Qatar of interfering in Libya’s internal affairs and threatened to shoot at Qatar Airways aircraft if they flew in again. The Libya Herald has also been told that the pilot of the plane was personally told not to fly in again.
Al-Waqwaq is prominent federalist linked to Cyrenaica Military Council. He lives near the airport.
Speaking on TV, another councillor, Garah Al-Khafifa, called for rapid intervention from the army and police to ensure the airport’s safety.
The head of the airport, Jamal Al Aqali, has said that the protestors were unarmed. He was also quoted in some of the local media as saying that his administration did not know who the protestors were but that the suspension would continue until security in the airport was assured.
Qatar Airways has confirmed to the Libya Herald that the service is suspended but says it is “for commercial reasons”. A source at the airlines said that all passengers had been informed of the situation and that alternative flights had been found.
The local councillor said that the council was looking for a solution to the problem.
Qatar Airways has been operating four flights a week between Benghazi and Doha. It launched the service in November 2011. At the beginning of this month it announced that was increasing capacity on its Tripoli-Doha route by making it non-stop, dropping the stopover in Alexandria. [/restrict]