The concrete walls and barbed wire that filled Baghdad’s streets at the height of Iraq’s sectarian fighting are to be removed by the end of this year, a security official said on Thursday.
“We have received instructions from the prime minister (Nuri al-Maliki) that all concrete barriers should be removed from the streets of Baghdad by the end of 2009,” Major General Qassim Atta, the Baghdad security spokesman, told AFP.
Atta linked the removal of the barriers to a security pact signed with Washington in November that requires US forces to withdraw from all cities and major towns by June 30 and from the country as a whole by the end of 2011.
“There were 88 streets closed (at the height of the fighting), and by now we have succeeded in opening 75 percent of them,” he said.
Atta added that “measures will be taken to protect the streets after they have been opened,” without making mention of the heavily-fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad that is home to the Iraqi government and US embassy.
He also insisted that the government, apart from the walls and T-wall anti-blast barriers, would remove many of the checkpoints which today guard nearly every intersection in the capital.
The security situation in Iraq has improved dramatically in the past two years as US and Iraqi forces have teamed up with local tribes and former insurgents to drive sectarian militias out of their former strongholds.
But a streak of bombings in Baghdad this month have served as a brutal reminder that insurgents can still carry out deadly attacks.
At least 83 people have been killed so far this month in attacks across the country, according to an AFP tally based on reports by security officials.