Years-old nightly Baghdad curfew ends

An Iraqi vendor sells shawarma at a restaurant in central Baghdad Feb 7, 2015. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that a decade-long nighttime curfew in the capital will be lifted on Feb 7. -- PHOTO: EPA
An Iraqi vendor sells shawarma at a restaurant in central Baghdad Feb 7, 2015. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that a decade-long nighttime curfew in the capital will be lifted on Feb 7. -- PHOTO: EPA

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq’s years-old nightly curfew was lifted on Sunday in a bid by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to ease restrictions on daily life despite persistent violence plaguing the country.

Doing away with the curfew – which most recently was in effect from midnight to 5am – ends a longstanding policy aimed at curbing violence in the capital by limiting movement at night.

The curfew, in place since the aftermath of the US-led invasion of 2003, did little to curb the deadly bombings that plague the capital, which are carried out during the day or early evening with the aim of causing maximum casualties.

The hours the curfew has been in force have varied over the years, and it has been lifted completely before only to be reinstated again.

Illustrating the persistent danger of violence in Baghdad, bombings in the capital killed at least 32 people and wounded more than 70 on Saturday.

The decision to lift the curfew comes as Iraqi forces battle to regain ground from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, which spearheaded an offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.

Abadi ordered the move this week, a decision his office said was taken so there would “be normal life as much as possible, despite the existence of a state of war”.