Iraq premier opens Green Zone to all citizens
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has announced the opening of the heavily fortified Green Zone in the capital, Baghdad, to all Iraqi citizens.
Abadi’s office issued a statement on Sunday, declaring the opening of the International Zone of Baghdad, as it is officially known, for the first time in 12 years.
The Green Zone is a 10-square-kilometer area in the Karkh district of the capital, which houses most of Iraqi government buildings and some foreign embassies.
The statement said the Iraqi premier was the first to pass through the Green Zone, which has been a target of bombings and rockets over the years.
A senior Green Zone security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said much of the restrictions on the zone, particularly on streets leading to government buildings and embassies, will continue to remain in place.
The area was taken by US military forces in April 2003 after the US invasion of the Iraq and became off-limits to the public. On January 1, 2009, the control of the area was fully transferred to Iraqi security forces.
The development comes as the northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence since Daesh terrorists began their campaign of terror in the country in June 2014.
According to the United Nations, more than 21,000 Iraqis have lost their lives or sustained injuries due to the acts of violence and terrorism in the embattled Arab country since the beginning of the year.
In a statement released on October 1, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq Fadel Ghraoui pointed to the dramatic rise in the number of Daesh operations against the Iraqi people, noting that a total of 6,238 Iraqis were killed and another 14,933 injured between January 1 and October 1, 2015.
Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters are fighting to win back militant-held regions in joint operations.