BAGHDAD — A nighttime curfew imposed for the past decade in the Iraqi capital Baghdad will be lifted on Saturday, the country’s prime minister said Thursday.
The announcement by Haider al-Abadi will allow residents inside the city to move freely for the first time since the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion.
While ISIS' offensive has not reached as far south as Baghdad, bomb blasts are still relatively frequent. Two attacks in the past week alone have killed more than 20 people and wounded dozens more.
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In addition to the 12 a.m-5 a.m. curfew being lifted, many closed roads across the city would be reopened, Abadi said in a statement on his website that.
Heavy weapons will also be banned in four city districts that include Sunni and Shiite Muslim neighborhoods.
Despite the recent attacks, Abadi's spokesman Rafid Jaboori told Reuters: "Baghdad was under real threat only a few months ago, but now Baghdad is secure enough ... to lift the nighttime curfew. Life goes on although Iraq is at war and is aiming to liberate the rest of the country. "
Baha'a, a 37-year-old Sunni, told NBC News the curfew being lifted was "a good chance for men to stay outside in bars. Before we had to leave bars by 11:30 p.m," he said.
Others were more cautious about the policy change. "I cannot be sure that streets in Baghdad are going to be safe enough, " 44-year-old Abu Majed, a Shiite Muslim, told NBC News. "It is going to be a good chance for terrorists to plant their IEDs at night, without being seen or discovered. "
Ali Jassem,31, said he was worried it could lead to fresh sectarian tensions. "Let's say an IED exploded after midnight, check points will try to catch suspects and Sunnis will be the targets."