Qatar Airways on Saturday said it has introduced its latest gateway in the Republic of Iraq with the launch of scheduled flights to the central city of Najaf.

Following its move into Iraq six months ago with the start of flights to both the capital Baghdad and Erbil, the Doha-based airline has inaugurated new services to its third city in the country.

On the back of passenger demand to Iraq, Qatar Airways viewed expansion as being vital, fuelled by the country’s reconstruction drive.

Qatar Airways said it the launch takes its frequency across Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf up 50 percent to 12 services each week.

Najaf, to be operated four-times-a-week, becomes destination number 124 in the airline’s global network.

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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “With our new Najaf services, we are giving the people of Iraq more choice and greater travel options to fly around the world after years of restricted access to air services. Similarly, with all the reconstruction efforts well underway in Iraq, there is a need for flights to bring in construction workers.

“As an air service provider, we at Qatar Airways have the faith and are doing our bit in the rebuilding efforts of the country.

“Najaf represents a significant part of Qatar Airways’ growth strategy of opening new, diverse routes connecting people in underserved markets to destinations around the world with more ease and convenience than ever before.”

The airline said it will launch services to a number of new routes in the first half of 2013, including Phnom Penh, Cambodia (February 20); Chengdu, China (March 19); Chicago, USA (April 10); and Salalah, Oman (May 22).