BAGHDAD (AFP) – Vehicles and pedestrians returned to the streets of Baghdad and the southern city of Basra on Sunday with the lifting of indefinite curfew in the two cities imposed after attacks on shrines.
A four-day curfew in Baghdad was lifted Sunday, while a similar curfew imposed on Basra since Friday has now been limited to between 6 pm and 5 am, police said.
Iraqi authorities imposed the indefinite curfew in Baghdad after the attack on the revered Shiite shrine in the northern town of Samarra on Wednesday, and took similar action after a reprisal attack on a Sunni shrine on Friday near Basra.
On Sunday, people working in government and private establishments in the two cities were making their way to their offices, while women and children visited local markets to buy household goods, police and residents said.
“The past four days were bad… we felt as if we were quarantined,” said Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, a resident of Baghdad’s western Mansur district.
“There was no electricity, no petrol in cars or for coolers in the house. It was really bad. The only good thing was that we got some extra time to spend with our family though the conditions were bad.”
After the Samarra shrine bombing, authorities quickly imposed the curfew in Baghdad to avert any major outbreak of sectarian bloodshed as the city has been engfulfed in violence since the first attack on the shrine in February, 2006.
On Wednesday, the shrine’s two gold-topped minarets were destroyed in bomb attacks by suspected Al-Qaeda militants and the previous February 2006 bombing had destroyed the golden dome of the mausoleum, triggering nationwide sectarian bloodletting that continues to this day.
Colonel Karim Zaidi, spokesman for Basra police said the city will now be under a nightly curfew as “we have not received any official order to lift the curfew completely.”
On Friday, a Sunni shrine in the town of Zubair, west of Basra, was bombed by assailants pretending to be a film crew, which had triggered the indefinite curfew in the city.
Baghdad, meanwhile, will continue to be under a regular curfew between 10 pm and 5:00 am.
US and Iraqi forces are currently deployed in the capital as part of a massive crackdown to curb the daily violence.