Airlines halt flights to Sanaa amid Yemen fighting
SANAA // Foreign airlines, including UAE carriers Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways, halted flights to the main international airport in the Sanaa because of heavy fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni militias in the Yemeni capital.
In a statement on their website, Etihad said: “Due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, Etihad Airways has suspended all flights to Sanaa with immediate effect and until further notice.
“The safety of Etihad Airways’ passengers and staff is of paramount importance, and the airline will continue to monitor the situation in Sana’a closely before recommencing scheduled services.
Etihad Airways is now offering the following options for guests who have purchased tickets for travel to/from Sanaa, on or before, 18 September and who now wish to alter their flight plans.
Emirates also posted a statement on their website.
“Emirates’ flight EK 961/ 962 Dubai/Sana’a/Dubai on today, Friday September 19th, has been cancelled due to reported deterioration of the civil unrest situation. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers,” it read.
Battles erupted a day earlier between the Shiite rebels known as the Houthis and gunmen loyal to the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen. The two sides fought in Shamlan, a suburb of Sanaa that is home to the Islamic Imam University, an institution seen as a breeding ground for Sunni militants.
Amid the fighting, the Houthis hit the headquarters of state television with mortars Thursday evening. Thousands have fled their homes in the area.
In a statement carried on the state news agency SABA early Friday, the civil aviation authority said foreign airlines suspended flights to Sanaa airport for 24 hours, after which they will review the security situation.
The Houthis have emerged as a powerful new player in the chronically unstable, impoverished nation. Over the past months, their fighters have scored a string of victories in the north, defeating mainly hardline Islamist fighters, bringing them the doorstep of Sanaa.
In the capital, they have led a campaign of street protests calling for the replacement of the government and economic reforms. One of their protest camps is set up on the main road leading to the airport.
The Houthis’ opponents accuse them of being a proxy for mainly Shiite Iran and of seeking to grab power, a claim the group denies.
The rebels’ advances add a new layer of turmoil in Yemen, where the government has long been battling one of the most powerful branches of the Al Qaeda terror network. There is also a growing separatist movement in the south, a region that once constituted an independent state before it merged with northern Yemen.
* Associated Press
Published: September 19, 2014 04:00 AM