Pakistani pilgrims visiting Iraq for pilgrimage were beaten by Iraqi security forces at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday 9 June. The incident happened on Iraqi Airways flight IA-409 that was scheduled to depart from Baghdad airport at 20.30 and reach Karachi at 02.00. At least three passengers were injured in the incident while one was taken into custody.
A video posted on social media related to the incident shows a Pakistani middle-aged man who is bleeding from his head and eye walking in front of the camera. Later we can see another man applying some cloth on his wound and then we can see him sitting with a bandage while another man is talking to the camera.
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On the other hands, Iraqi Airways has said that it is investigating the incident and has stressed “its keenness to apply safety standards” to the maximum degree in order to save the lives of passengers.
According to one of the passengers on the plane who is seen on the video the temperature control system on the plane was not working. He is saying that “we don’t want to go on this plane if the AC is not working. Its 3 hours direct flight. If God forbid anything happens we cannot do anything.”
He further explains that “on top of that they are not even serving water or anything. When people raised their voices the captain said he is not flying the plane. The captain accepted”
Later the person accepts that during the course of this whole debate “we exchange harsh words with the staff. We insisted a lot, as they were trying to fly the plane anyway. Eventually they stopped the plane. When they stopped it.” Here the video ends but he is reported to be saying that security officials pinpointed them and then attacked on those who were vocal.
The Iraqi Airways Company on Tuesday issued a clarification and shared their side of the story about this flight from Baghdad to Karachi, Pakistan. The airline said that they are “launching an investigation to determine the circumstances of the incident”.
The company further said that they “would like to clarify what happened on the flight “from Baghdad to Karachi on Sunday, 2019/6/9, where a number of passengers caused rioting and stampede while the aircraft was moving (it is not clear if the plane was moving on ground or flying). Forcing the pilot to return the plane back to the airport terminal in accordance with the laws of international aviation for the sake of safety.”
The statement further says that many security officials were mobilised when the plane reached the gate and Minister of Transport Abdullah Luaibi and the Director General of the Iraqi Airways company pilot Kifah Hassan were also involved until the situation was brought under control.
According to Pakistani foreign office sources, Pakistani ambassador to Iraq Sajid Bilal also reached the airport and helped in the release of detained Pakistani passenger and getting medical aid to injured.
Iraqi airways operate two flights a week on Baghdad Karachi route using mostly Boeing 737-800 on Karachi route. It flies on every Saturday and Sunday. It also operates two flights a week on Wednesday and Sunday between Najaf and Karachi. But this Saturday 8 June it sent a Boeing 747 to Karachi given the sheer number of passengers.