Iraqi prime minister lifts decade-old Baghdad curfew

AP News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2015 9:50 AM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister on Thursday lifted a decade-old, midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Baghdad, ordered that long-blocked streets in the capital be opened up and declared some neighborhoods of the city weapons-free zones.

The measure by Haider al-Abadi appeared to be aimed at restoring a sense of normalcy in Baghdad, where residents enjoyed a vibrant night life before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The curfew was imposed in 2004 as security deteriorated across the city and beyond.

A government statement said al-Abadi met with security officials at the Baghdad military command at dawn Thursday and ordered the curfew to be lifted starting Saturday.

He also ordered that streets, long blocked off for security reasons, reopen for traffic and pedestrians. The prime minister's order also banned the carrying of weapons in four major neighborhoods — the Shiite Kazimiyah area, the Sunni Azamiyah district, the Sunni Mansour and the southwestern Sayidyah neighborhood.

There was no indication how the last measure would be implemented and al-Abadi gave no reason for the lifting of the curfew.

Baghdad is still witnessing near-daily attacks by militants, including suicide and car bombings, seeking to undermine the Shiite-led government's efforts to maintain security.

Also, the country is going through its worst crisis since the U.S. troops' withdrawal in 2011 in the wake of last year's blitz by the Islamic State militant group that emerged from al-Qaida.

The offensive by the IS group has captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq and parts of neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces, aided by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are scrambling to with back territory from the militants.