A ban on international flights into Iraq’s Kurdish region was being imposed on Friday after the Baghdad government retaliated against a vote for independence that has drawn opposition from foreign powers.
Iraq’s Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in a referendum on Monday, defying neighboring countries which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region.
Almost all foreign airlines suspended flights to Erbil and Sulaimaniya, obeying a notice from the government in Baghdad, which controls Iraqi air space. The ban was set to come into force at 6.00 p.m. on Friday.
Domestic flights are still allowed, so travelers are expected to travel to Kurdistan mostly via Baghdad’s airport, which will come under strain from the extra traffic.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric intervened to oppose the secession of the Kurdistan region, adding pressure on the Kurds in his first directly political sermon since early last year.