Iraq increases security measures ahead of elections
Iraq has tightened security across the country ahead of the general elections scheduled for later this month, the first such vote since the withdrawal of US troops in late 2011, Press TV reports.
Security measures have been stepped up in and around Baghdad, especially in what is known as the Baghdad Belts - an area that encircles the capital and includes the provinces of Salahuddin, Baghdad, Diyala, Babil, Wasit and Anbar.
Iraqi security forces have increased arrests in the area in the run-up to elections, following attempts made by al Qaeda and its affiliated group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to penetrate into the capital.
“There are terrorist organizations threatening us on a daily basis…. We know that al-Qaeda is trying to just prevent us from voting, but we will go through the democratic process,” said an Iraqi man in Baghdad.
“The government is trying to tackle the terrorism issue the best they can. They have also had a meeting with the world leaders [to seek] cooperation for the elimination of terrorist organizations,” another Baghdad resident stated.
The stepped-up security measures come amid allegations by some Sunni political parties, accusing the government of clamping down on Sunnis as a whole, not only al Qaeda and its affiliated militant groups.
But political analyst, Ayad Ashor, dismissed these allegations, referring to the cooperation between government forces and an alliance of Sunni groups in the restive province of Anbar, where the army has been battling al Qaeda-linked terrorists since December 2013.
“In the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, Sunni tribes are working together with the army against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Terrorism has no religion,” he said.
Certain businesses around the Baghdad Belts have reportedly asked their employees to take some time off out of fear for al Qaeda attacks. They say they will go back to work next week.
Violence in Iraq has hit record height since 2008, leaving over 2,200 people dead so far this year.