BEIRUT: Iraqi security forces detained an airport official in connection with the decision to turn back a flight from Beirut Thursday after the son of the Iraqi transport minister missed the plane, Iraqi media reported.
A “special security force from the office of the Armed Forces Commander” arrested Baghdad Airport Assistant Manager Samer Kibbeh during a raid on his office late Thursday night, according to an article published on Iraq’s Al-Sumaria TV channel website Friday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he would punish those responsible for the fiasco, which went viral online soon after news broke.
Transport Minister Ghazi Zeaiter said the incident will not affect ties between Lebanon and Iraq “neither at the political level nor at the transport level," the National News Agency reported.
Zeaiter said the incident was an individual behavior by “an employee at Baghdad airport” and hailed Maliki's decision to punish the perpetrators.
The new Lebanon transport minister said he discussed the incident in separate telephone calls with Maliki and Iraq's transport minister, Hadi al-Amiri.
Amiri “was very upset," Zeaiter told the local NBN television channel, adding that Maliki took stern measures against the violators.
Meanwhile, 21 of the 71 passengers whose flight was cancelled because of the Iraqi decision flew to Baghdad late Thursday night.
A source at Rafik Hariri International Airport said an Iraqi Airways CRJ 900 plane carrying 59 passengers arrived in Beirut and flew back to Baghdad with 21 passengers.
The passengers were among 71 people who were on board a Middle East Airlines plane that was forced to return to Beirut midflight after Iraqi authorities refused to let the plane land without the son of Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Amiri.
The remaining 50 passengers are expected to fly out Friday, the source told The Daily Star.