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World

AFP
January 23, 2017
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Iraq builds new airport in Karbala to handle pilgrims

Iraq builds new airport in Karbala to handle pilgrims

KARBALA: Iraqi officials laid the cornerstone of a new airport near Karbala Monday, mostly to handle the millions of pilgrims who flock to the holy  city each year.

The Central Euphrates Airport will be located some 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of Karbala, Ahmed Tobal, an engineer with the Khayrat al-Sibtein company supervising the project, told AFP.

"The first phase will include the construction of a runway, a passenger terminal, a car park and a maintenance facility," he said at Monday´s ceremony.

"The airport will receive its inaugural flight in 18 months."

British company Copperchase, whose managing director Anthony Myers also attended the ceremony, will carry out the $500-million (467-million-euro) project, Tobal said.


"This airport will contribute to reviving tourism in the central Euphrates region," said Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country´s most revered cleric.

He said that at least five Iraqi provinces would benefit from the new airport, which will be around half way between Karbala and Najaf.

"Karbala receives millions of pilgrims and building the airport is a necessity," Karbala Governor Aqeel al-Turaihi said during the ceremony.

He said that in recent years around 2.5 million foreigners visited Karbala each year for Arbaeen, an annual commemoration at the Imam Hussein shrine which has become one of the world´s largest pilgrimages.

"Establishing it does not only serve the people of Karbala and neighbouring provinces but all the Muslims of the world who come during the religious holidays," Turaihi said.

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