Qatar Airways flights targeted by gunmen in Tripoli
By: Courtney Trenwith
Qatar Airways has suspended passenger and cargo operations in Tripoli after the airline was reportedly twice threatened by a group of gunmen.
A Qatar Airways flight was prevented from landing at Tripoli International Airport in the Libyan capital on Sunday when the armed group forced air traffic control staff to deny the plane permission to land, according to the Libya Herald.
The flight was forced to divert to Alexandria in northern Egypt, where it refuelled before returning to the Qatari capital, Doha.
On Saturday, a group of gunmen stormed the Qatar Airways office at the Tripoli airport demanding staff to leave.
It was reported the group wanted to prevent Qatari passenger and cargo aircraft from landing in Libya, although it did not say why.
The group also intended to force the closure of the Qatar Airways office in downtown Tripoli, sources at the airport said.
Qatar Airways confirmed to Arabian Business it had temporarily seized operating in Tripoli, although it did not comment on the attacks or whether it had also suspended operations in Benghazi.
“For operational reasons, we [sic] temporarily suspending operations in and to Tripoli, Libya until further notice,” a statement from the airline says.
The Libyan Interior Ministry condemned the attack on Sunday, which it described as “shameful”.
The ministry said the group did not represent Libya and sending the wrong message to the international community and foreign companies, which would prevent economic development in the conflict-affected country, according to the Libyan Herald.
Demonstrators have previously protested against Qatar, which they claim is supporting the Libyan Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar denies the accusations and Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said there was no evidence of Qatar being involved with the country’s hardline Islamists.
Two months ago, Qatar Airways suspended flights to and from Benghazi after militiamen forced non-Libyans arriving on a flight from Doha back onto the plane and prevented Libyans from boarding it for the return flight to the Qatari capital. According to a Benghazi Local Council member at the time, the militiamen accused Qatar of interfering in Libya’s internal affairs.
Flights between Doha and Tripoli, via Alexandria, had only resumed in February last year following the revolution that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi. They were upgraded to a daily, non-stop service in June.