Iraqi security forces recently foiled a plot by al-Qaida to use planes to attack famous Shiite holy shrines in southern Iraq, local media reported on Wednesday.
The security forces received information that al-Qaida had a plan to hijack civilian aircraft which took off from Najaf airport to attack the dome of the Imam Ali shrine, Al-Aalem newspaper reported, citing a source with the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces.
“They planned to control an Iraqi plane and change the captain for the attack” on Imam Ali’s shrine or the shrines in Karbala, said the source on condition of anonymity because of the high sensitivity of the issue.
Both Najaf and Karbala, located in southern Iraq, are holy cities for Shiite Muslims.
Iraqi officials previously announced that the airport of Najaf city had been closed for “technical reasons,” but failed to disclose the details.
According to Al-Sumaria television reports, a government delegation including defense minister arrived in Najaf Wednesday afternoon to discuss with local officials the closure of Najaf’s international airport.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi later told reporters that the airport “will be reopened soon, after discussing the needed security measures.”