BAGHDAD – Iraq's prime minister has ordered an investigation into how a bear escaped from its crate in the cargo hold of an Iraqi aircraft as it was due to depart from Dubai airport, leaving passengers disgruntled over the delay and causing a stir on social media.
Iraqi Airways said it wasn't to blame for the bear's escape and that the aircraft's crew worked with authorities in the United Arab Emirates, which dispatched specialists to sedate the animal and remove it from the plane.
A video clip circulating on social media showed the plane’s captain apologizing to passengers for Friday's takeoff delay because of the bear's escape from its crate in the cargo hold.
Iraqi Airways said Saturday that procedures to transport the bear were carried out in accordance with the law and with procedures and standards approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The airline said the bear was being flown from Baghdad to Dubai. But a person speaking on the video clip making the social media rounds suggested otherwise, saying the aircraft was an hour late for its trip to Baghdad and that passengers were being asked to disembark until the issue was resolved.
Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, declined to comment.
An Iraqi Airways official confirmed to The Associated Press on Sunday that the bear was, in fact, being transported to the Iraqi capital. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to speak about the matter publicly, declined to name the animal's owner.
Keeping predatory animals as pets in Iraq — especially in Baghdad — has become popular among the wealthy.
Authorities have struggled to enforce legal provisions to protect wild animals. Baghdad’s police has previously called on citizens to assist authorities in preventing such animals from being let loose on the city's streets or ending up as exotic meals in restaurant by reporting such cases.