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Qatar accused by UAE of 'intercepting' passenger planes to Bahrain

Qatar says allegation that two Manama-bound flights were intercepted by its fighter jets is 'completely false'
Qatari fighters line up on a runway (AFP)

The UAE on Monday accused Qatari fighter jets of intercepting passenger flights operated by Emirati national carriers to Bahrain, as a months-old feud between the Gulf states continued to escalate.

The Qatari government said the allegation was "completely false".

The UAE's state news agency said one flight was a regular, scheduled service by an Emirati national carrier to Manama, on a known flight path that met all the required and internationally recognised approvals and permits.

"The General Civil Aviation Authority received a message from a national carrier on Monday morning that an aircraft on a routine flight to Manama was intercepted by Qatari fighter jets in a flagrant and serious threat to the safety of civil aviation and a clear violation of international law," it said.

The civil aviation authority said it would take "all necessary legal measures to ensure the safety and security of civil air traffic".

"The United Arab Emirates rejects this threat to the safety of air traffic."

It later said that a second flight by a UAE civilian aircraft had been intercepted.

The UAE has two national carriers: Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, and Etihad in Abu Dhabi.

Air Arabia and flydubai, also based in the UAE, also operate flights to Bahrain.

No details have been released about which flights were affected and neither airline has commented.

The UAE did not say whether the affected flights were forced to divert their course.

Bahrain's national news agency reported that one of the affected flights was operated by Emirates, according to Reuters.

Flight data shows that Emirates flight 835 from Dubai, which landed in Manama at 2:32am local time, took an unusual flight path, flying past Bahrain before looping back to land in a southeasterly direction, but still landed only a couple of minutes behind schedule.

The plane remained in Emirati and Bahraini airspace throughout its flight, according to the data.

Data showing the flight path of Emirates flight 835 from Dubai to Manama on Monday (Screengrab)
The flight usually approaches Manama airport in a northwesterly direction, cutting closer to the edge of Qatari airspace to the north of the peninsula.

Middle East Eye contacted Emirates Airlines to seek clarification about why the flight diverted from its usual route but did not receive a response.

An Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi landed a few minutes ahead of schedule at 3:29am local time and followed a regular flight path.

Flight data also shows that Etihad and Emirates flights to Manama later in the morning were delayed prior to takeoff but followed regular flight paths, arriving about an hour behind schedule.

Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar's government communications office, said on Twitter that the allegations were "completely false" and said a full statement would be issued soon.

Translation: Qatar declares that the accusations against Qatar that it 'intercepted' a UAE passenger plane are completely false. We will issue a statement about that shortly

The UAE is one of four Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt that imposed travel, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar in June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar has denied the charges.

On Friday, Qatar filed a complaint to the UN about an alleged violation of its airspace in December by an Emirati military aircraft.

Qatari authorities said the violation on 21 December, which the UAE denied, lasted a minute.

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