Iraq is to permanently lift a decade-old curfew on Baghdad beginning on Saturday, according to state TV.
Brigadier-General Saad Maan, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operation Brigade, said on Thursday that the directive to end the nightly curfew was given by Haider al-Abbadi, Iraqi prime minister.
“The prime minister ordered that the curfew in the city of Baghdad be completely lifted starting from this Saturday,” Maan told the AFP news agency.
The move came after Abbadi visited the operations command on Wednesday and was briefed on the security situation and the status of operations, Maan said.
Lifting the curfew is a major change to a longstanding policy that sought to curb violence in the capital by limiting movement at night.
The hours it has been in force have varied over the years, but it has most recently lasted from midnight to 5am.
The decision to lift the curfew comes as Iraqi forces battle to regain ground from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which spearheaded an offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.
While Baghdad s no longer under threat of a major assault by fighters, it is still hit by frequent bombings.
On Thursday, nine people were killed and 30 more injured in three explosions in the city.
Mid-range weapons ban
In addition to lifting the curfew, Baghdad has banned all but light weapons in several key neighbourhoods in the capital.
State run Iraqiya television said mid-range weapons would no longer be allowed in the neighbourhoods of Kadhamiya, Athamiya, Mansour and Sadiya.
It said security convoys in those neighbourhoods would be limited to three vehicles.
Kadhamiya is home to the Kathamain shrine where two imams are buried.
The remainder are neighbourhoods in which security forces have recently cracked down on kidnappings and killings.
A statement by Abbadi also said that only local security forces would be allowed to make arrests within those neighbourhoods.
The new rules are an apparent effort to limit the role of militias, which have played an increasing role in Baghdad’s security.
The rules also aim to limit what are seen as abuses by security forces attached to government ministers and other officials.
A spokesman for the Karbala provincial government said they also lifted a midnight curfew effective immediately.