Monday, August 12, 2013

Aviation association calls for release of abducted pilots in Lebanon

BEIRUT: The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations called Monday for the immediate release of two Turkish Airlines pilots who were kidnapped in Beirut last week.

“[IFALPA] condemns this action and calls for the immediate release of the two pilots,” the organization said in a statement, adding that such an attack on civil aviation constituted “a willful hazard to the safety and security of passengers and crew.

“States and operators should consider the prevention of such attacks as a high priority, and do everything in their power to ensure the security of air crews and their families, in particular during layovers,” IFALPA said.

A group of gunmen kidnapped captain Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca as they headed to their Beirut hotel on a bus shortly after arriving in Lebanon at the Rafik Hariri International Airport.

A local group, Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, demanding in exchange the release of nine Lebanese hostages in Syria who were abducted in May of last year by rebels.

Relatives of the Lebanese argue that Ankara, a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition, can secure the release of their loved ones.

IFALPA also said that it was constantly examining all flight crew transportation and accommodation and would continue to work alongside governments and operators to protect air crews against security threats.

“IFALPA will also raise the matter with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ensure that international Standards and Recommended Practices provide the necessary basis for the highest security regulations worldwide,” it added.