Middle East

Baghdad celebrates lifting of curfew after 12 years

Vehicles are seen on a street in Baghdad February 8, 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Vehicles on the streets of Baghdad on Saturday

People in Baghdad have been celebrating the lifting of a 12-year-old curfew in the Iraqi capital.

Pictures on social media showed people dancing in the streets as the restriction came to an end at midnight local time (21:00 GMT).

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had taken the decision to help normalise life in Baghdad.

It came despite a string of explosions in the capital which killed at least 32 people on Saturday.

Residents had previously had their movements restricted between the hours of 00:00 and 05:00.

Following the decision to lift the curfew, Iraqis ventured out on to the streets flying flags and honking car horns.

"Before, we felt like we were in prison," said cafe owner Faez Abdulillah Ahmed, speaking to AFP news agency. "We were restricted."

Shop owner Marwan Hashem added: "We were waiting for this decision for years."

The curfew was introduced as a security measure in the violent aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.

An official from Mr Abadi's office said the decision to lift it had been made "despite the existence of a state of war", AFP news agency reports.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraq's security forces stood guard in Baghdad on Saturday night
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Iraqi government says it wants to normalise life in the capital
Image copyright EPA
Image caption But there is continued violence, including multiple explosions in Baghdad on Saturday

Bombings and explosions remain a fact of life for many in Iraq's capital.

Ministers have also had to deal with the threat of Islamic State (IS) militants seizing large swathes of territory close to the city.

At least one of Saturday's bombings was claimed by IS, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activity.

It was carried out by a suicide attacker who detonated his explosives near a restaurant, killing at least 22 people.

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Media captionExplosions rocked Baghdad just hours before the curfew was lifted

There were also a series of separate blasts on Saturday, including one at a central market.

An interior ministry spokesman said he did not believe the attacks were connected with the government's decision to end the curfew, Reuters news agency.

Last year there were fears that IS gunmen might attack Baghdad following their sweep across Iraq and Syria.

But following Western intervention against the group, the government has regained some of its lost territory.

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