Afghan plane forced to fly back after MPs miss flight

MPs deny involvement, but aviation bosses open probe after Bamiyan-bound plane is forcefully diverted back to Kabul.

Kam Air afghanistan
Kam Air opened as Afghanistan's only private airline in November 2003 [File/Reuters]

Afghan aviation authorities have filed an official complaint against two members of parliament after a Bamiyan-bound flight they missed was forced to return to the capital when men on the ground prevented the plane from landing.

Kam Air flight RQ-814 took off from Kabul on Tuesday with 30 passengers on board – but without Bamiyan MPs Ghulam Hussain Naseri and Abdul Rahman Shaheedani, who were booked on the 8am flight.

According to local media reports, Shaheedani’s son, a police officer at the Bamiyan airport, had a role in disrupting the flight’s landing by converging with other officers on the runway and forcing the plane to fly back to Kabul.

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After the aircraft returned to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, the two politicians were able to board the flight. Footage obtained by Al Jazeera shows Shaheedani inside the plane, just before its second departure, saying: “Everyone will now know who I am and what my power is.”

Mahmoud Shah Habibi, head of the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority, called the incident “a complete breach of security” that violated Afghan and international aviation law.

“We have filed an official complaint against the MPs and an investigation is under way,” he told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

“Whatever happened there, Kam Air should not had come under pressure and contacted the relevant people.”

Local media organisation, Tolonews, reported on Wednesday that at least five senior security officials were arrested over the illegal diversion of the flight. Shaheedani’s son was among those arrested.

The provincial government said in a statement that the commander of Bamiyan airport’s border police, six border police officers and the regional security chief were being questioned in connection to the incident.

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Shaheedani, however, denied any involvement in disrupting the landing in Bamiyan.

“I did not play any role in this. The flight was diverted by my supporters in Bamiyan, I did not ask them to do this,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I received a call after missing my flight that the flight was diverted back and I was now able to get on the plane, so I arrived at the airport without any knowledge of the incident until I was told by the airport staff about what happened.”

‘Extreme pressure’

Captail Samad Osman Samadi, chief executive of Kam Air, described the incident as “very unusual”.

“This has not happened before,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We were under extreme pressure and worried for our passengers’ security and had no option but to divert the flight back to Kabul. They had blocked the runway and we could not land.”

As the flight returned back to Kabul, passengers had to disembark, causing delays and inconvenience.

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Samadi explained the plane was re-fuelled before taking off to Bamiyan again.

“After the MPs got on board in Kabul, the runway in Bamiyan was clear and we landed without any interruption.”

A number of MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) on Wednesday condemned the act and called for a full investigation.

Kam Air opened as Afghanistan’s only private airline in November 2003. It flies leased aircraft between Kabul, Dubai and Istanbul and operates several domestic routes.

Follow Shereena Qazi on Twitter: @ShereenaQazi

Additional reporting by Fatima Faizi in Kabul, follow her on Twitter @FatmaFaizi 

Source: Al Jazeera