Middle East

Beirut rubbish dump birds shot by hunters near airport

Hunters shoot down seagulls that are attracted by the garbage at the Costa Brava dump, on January 14, 2017 near Beirut"s International Airport Image copyright AFP
Image caption Environmental groups in Lebanon claim hunters have been shooting birds near the airport

Hunters have been spotted shooting dead birds said to be threatening planes at Beirut's international airport, an environmental group has claimed.

The men were spotted on a nearby rubbish dump blamed for attracting birds days after their increasing presence was called an "emergency".

It is feared a bird strike could cause a crash, but the Lebanon Eco Movement have said shooting the seagulls breaches an international conservation agreement.

It is unclear who the hunters are.

Some activists called the shooting a "massacre", while the Lebanon Eco Movement released a statement condemning the killings "under the eyes of the security forces" and in light of the government's vow "to preserve the environment".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption It is feared the birds could be sucked into an aircraft engine and cause an accident

The statement accused them of violating the International Convention for the Protection of Aquatic Birds.

Transport Minister Yusef Fenianos promised to deal with the problem earlier this week, after local media reported a Middle East Airlines flight encountered a large flock of birds as it landed on the airport's west runway.

It was suggested an increase in devices emitting bird of prey calls around the airport to scare off the animals could solve the issue.

But groups said this would not go far enough, and called for the dump to be closed - which it was on Thursday, less than a year after it opened.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption It is unclear who the hunters were

It had been part of an effort try and resolve the city's waste problems, which had seen piles of rubbish stack up on the streets following the closure of the main dump.

But a planned waste processing facility on the site is yet to be built, allowing rubbish to build up as high as 9m (30ft), according to reports.

As a result, it was attracting rodents and increasing numbers of birds, which were seen flocking around the runways of the airport.

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