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Saturday 25 November 2017

Decade-old Baghdad curfew lifted

Baghdad enjoyed a vibrant nightlife prior to the US-led invasion in 2003
Baghdad enjoyed a vibrant nightlife prior to the US-led invasion in 2003

Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered the end of a decade-old midnight curfew in Baghdad.

A government statement said the midnight to 5am curfew, first implemented in 2004, will be lifted starting on Saturday.

The move appears to be aimed at restoring a sense of normalcy to the capital, where residents enjoyed a vibrant night life before the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The curfew was imposed as security deteriorated following his removal.

Mr al-Abadi ordered that long-blocked streets in the capital should be opened up to traffic and pedestrians, and also declared some parts of the city weapon-free zones.

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

The prime minister's order also banned the carrying of weapons in four major neighbourhoods - the Shia Kazimiyah area, the Sunni Azamiyah district, the Sunni Mansour and the south-western Sayidyah neighbourhood.

There was no indication how the last measure would be implemented and Mr 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 Shia-led government's efforts to maintain security.

Also, the country is going through its worst crisis since the US 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 swathes of northern and western Iraq and parts of neighbouring Syria. Iraqi forces, aided by US-led coalition air strikes, are scrambling to with back territory from the militants.

Press Association

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