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EGYPT: Air travel disrupted; Cairo airport besieged by fleeing tourists

Egyptian flag

Mounting unrest in Egypt disrupted air travel to and from Cairo and other major Egyptian cities on Saturday as carriers canceled or delayed flights.

One Cairo-bound jet from London turned back in mid-flight after Egyptian authorities extended a curfew to start at 4 p.m., making it impossible for passengers aboard the British Midlands flight to make it out of the airport in time to avoid the police patrols.

More than 1,500 travelers descended on Cairo International Airport, about half of them tourists, after the United States, France, Germany and other countries warned their citizens to cancel nonessential travel and avoid the major Egyptian cities where anti-government protests have become violent.

Airport officials told the Associated Press in Cairo that the Israeli carrier, El Al, was attempting to send in a plane to pick up about 200 Israeli citizens.

Delta Airlines announced that it was indefinitely suspending its flights from the United States to Cairo "as a result of civil unrest.”

British Airways said it had revised its flight schedule to land well ahead of the start of the 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew imposed by the government in response to widening unrest.

German carrier Lufthansa canceled both of its Saturday flights to the Egyptian capital, as did Air Berlin and Poland's LOT.

Dutch-based KLM, Italy's Alitalia, EgyptAir and Emirates said they would continue to fly to Egypt but on schedules adjusted to accommodate the curfew.

Cairo, Alexandria and the port city of Suez have been the scene of violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police for more than five days as Egyptians demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

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-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: Protesters wave an Egyptian flag atop a street sign at Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday. Credit: Reuters

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