MANAMA (AFP) – Bahrain’s two carriers said Wednesday they have suspended flights to Lebanon, after a halt in services to Iran and Iraq, where Shiite communities have also slammed the kingdom’s handling of protests.
Bahrain last week carried out a bloody crackdown on mainly Shiite activists demonstrating for democratic reforms since February 14 in the tiny Shiite-majority, Sunni-ruled kingdom.
Iran condemned the March 16 intervention by troops from neighbouring Gulf states in support of Manama, while Lebanon’s powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah has offered unspecified support for the Shiite-led Bahraini opposition.
And thousands of protesters have turned out in Iraq in shows of support for Bahraini Shiites.
A Gulf Air booking agent told AFP by telephone that cancellations to Iran and Iraq were due to “operational reasons.” Another said: “What we know is that Gulf Air cancelled the flights. We don’t know the reason.”
But another agent said: “Services have been cancelled by (the) Bahrain government for security reasons. You know the situation in Bahrain… We don’t have (any) idea” when they will resume.
National carrier Gulf Air’s website says its operations are “suspended until and including 31 March, 2011” of flights to and from Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran, and to Baghdad, Najaf, Arbil and Basra in Iraq.
Gulf Air and budget airline Bahrain Air have both called off flights to Lebanon “until further notice,” the official BNA news agency said.
An employee of Bahrain Air said the airline does not have services to Iran or Iraq, while the company’s website said flights to Lebanon have been called off until at least March 30.
In addition to the cancellation of flights from Bahrain to Lebanon, the Gulf kingdom has advised its citizens not to travel to the fellow Arab state, a popular destination for wealthy Gulf Arabs.
“Due to threats and interference by terrorists,” the Bahraini foreign ministry said on Tuesday it “warns and advises its citizens not to travel to the Republic of Lebanon as they might face dangers threatening their safety.”