UAE Says Qatar Fighter Jets Intercept Flights

Etihad Airways aircraft. (Getty)

The United Arab Emirates on Monday claimed that Qatari fighter jets intercepted two of its commercial airliners in international airspace on the way to Bahrain, allegations promptly denied by a Doha official.

The claim could further escalate tensions between Qatar and the four Arab nations that have been boycotting it for months, among them the UAE, home to the world's busiest international airport.

The UAE's state-run WAM news agency made the claim on Monday, citing the country's General Civil Aviation Authority.

"The GCAA received a message from one of the UAE's national carriers on Monday morning that one of its aircraft on a flight to Manama on a normal route had been intercepted by Qatari fighters," the report said. "The flight was a regular, scheduled service on a known flight-path that met all the required and internationally recognized approvals and permits."

WAM said later Monday a second flight to Bahrain was similarly "intercepted."

WAM did not identify the aircraft involved, nor did it elaborate on details of the purported encounters. The GCAA did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press.

Saif Al Thani, a Qatari government spokesman, denied the UAE's claim on Twitter, calling it "completely untrue." He promised a detailed statement would come later Monday.

The UAE is home to two major national carriers, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Dubai-based Emirates. Both airlines declined to comment when reached by the AP.

U.S. Air Force Central Command, which is based at the sprawling al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, also did not immediately have any report about any incident involving a commercial aircraft in the region, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, an Air Force spokesman. However, Pickart cautioned that U.S. forces don't routinely monitor the flights and operations of the Qatari air force.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry also issued a statement saying it "strongly condemns" Qatar over the alleged encounter.

Qatar's stock exchange dropped some 2.5 percent in trading Monday surrounding the dispute, one of its biggest jolts since the crisis began.

The Qatar crisis began June 5 with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cutting off Doha's land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties with Iran.


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