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  Updated: April 22, 2010

Imam Ali International Airport reopens after 9/11-like threat

By: Ismail Zabeeh

HOLY NAJAF, Iraq: Najaf’s Imam Ali International Airport used by thousands of pilgrims reopened on Thursday April 22 after Al-Qaeda threats led to its closure two weeks ago, a local official told AFP.

"The head of Iraq's civil aviation and the ministry of transport decided from today to reopen the airport to internal and international flights, after all security measures were taken to prevent Al-Qaeda attacking the Shiite shrines with aircraft," provincial councillor Khaled al-Jashami said.

The airport closed on April 7 "because of gaps in security," a transport ministry spokesman said at the time, with the Kuwaiti company Al Aqiq reportedly failing to meet its contractual obligations to provide security equipment.

On April 14, a US counter-terrorist official announced that the Iraqi authorities have discovered an Al-Qaeda plan to hijack aircraft and fly them into the holy shrines.

Holy Najaf airport, 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, has been receiving around 800 passengers daily, mostly pilgrims from Bahrain and Iran, since it opened to civilian flights in July 2008.

But numbers surge during major events such as Ashura.

According to provincial authorities the airport's closure caused daily losses of 100,000 dollars.


 
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