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Maliki Intends to Lift Curfew in Baghdad
Planned Easing of Security Restrictions Reflects Recent Drop in Violence, Officials Say

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BAGHDAD, Nov. 12 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hopes to soon declare an end to a nine-month-old security plan and curfew in Baghdad because of a recent decline in violence, Iraqi officials said Monday.

Maliki expects to gradually lift the curfew, which now extends from midnight to 5 a.m., and to reopen this month 10 roads in the capital that have been shut as a security precaution, according to one of his aides. The aide cautioned that the plans could be altered depending on fast-moving conditions on the ground.

The anticipated changes reflect a growing confidence among Iraqi government officials that the buildup of U.S. troops that began in February has succeeded in reducing sectarian bloodshed across Iraq. But many citizens, observers and even some U.S. and Iraqi officials remain concerned that the drop in attacks represents only a lull in sectarian violence.

Meanwhile, incidents across the country on Monday killed at least 29 people, an Interior Ministry official said.

In Diyala province, which borders Iran, Iraqi police announced that five Iranians had been seized in the town of Khalis. Maj. Mohammed Zayidan, director of the local police force's major crimes unit, said the four men and a woman had been found in a car, with no identification papers and speaking only Persian.

The Iranians, who were traveling to Baghdad, said they had relatives at Camp Ashraf, a base near Khalis for the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e Khalq, which the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist organization.

In the holy Shiite city of Karbala, the government fired 340 police officers it said were linked to Shiite militias. The move followed huge Shiite-on-Shiite clashes in the city over the summer in which 49 people were killed. Local police said the firings were ordered by the Interior Ministry in Baghdad.

"This campaign came after investigations conducted to cleanse the police system of all bad people that are loyal to the militias instead of their country," said Brig. Gen. Raid Shakir Jawdat, the Karbala police commander.

Special correspondents Naseer Nouri, Saad al-Izzi, Zaid Sabah and Dalya Hassan in Baghdad, Saad Sarhan in Najaf and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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