Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and several of his bodyguards were escorted off a plane at Baghdad airport on Sunday because two of the guards were wanted on “terrorism charges,” officials said, the latest step in a deepening political crisis.
Two of his guards were detained by security forces but Hashemi was being allowed to travel on the Iraqi Airways flight bound for Arbil and Sulaimaniyah in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
As of 7:45 pm (1645 GMT), the plane, which had been scheduled to depart at 5:30 pm, was still waiting at Baghdad airport, Hiwa Osman, a Kurdish journalist and passenger on the flight, told AFP.
The arrest of Hashemi’s bodyguards comes on the same day Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for the ouster of his deputy Saleh al-Mutlak, and a day after the Sunni-backed Iraqiya party said it would boycott parliament.
Mutlak and Hashemi, both Sunnis, are both senior members of Iraqiya, which has accused Maliki of consolidating power.