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Baghdad's Green Zone reopens to the public after 16 years

Updated : 2019-06-05 08:40:26

Baghdad's Green Zone area, the heavily fortified strip on the west bank of the Tigris River, reopened to the public Tuesday after 16 years — a move meant to portray increased confidence in the country's overall security situation after years of war. Maj. Gen. Jassim Yahya Abd Ali told The Associated Press that the area, which houses the US Embassy and Iraqi government offices, is now open "twenty-four hours a day without any exceptions or conditions." The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer) with its palm trees and monuments has been off-limits to the public since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq to topple dictator Saddam Hussein. The area was home to Saddam Hussein's palaces before the war. It then became known as "Little America" following the 2003 US invasion that toppled him, after it was seized by US military forces. In later years, the walled-off area surrounded by cement blast walks became a hated symbol of the country's inequality, fueling the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch. Only Iraqis with special security badges could enter the area. Various attempts and promises by the Iraqi government to open the Green Zone to traffic over the past years have failed to materialize, because of persistent security concerns. Earlier this year, the government began easing restrictions in the area. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said the Green Zone will be fully open to the public on Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Ali said authorities removed 12,000 concrete walls from the area.

Iraqi security forces stand guard as they check motorists entering the Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq. The Green Zone has been a barometer for tension and conflict in Iraq for nearly two decades. The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer), heavily guarded strip on the Tigris River was known as
Iraqi security forces stand guard as they check motorists entering the Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq. The Green Zone has been a barometer for tension and conflict in Iraq for nearly two decades. The 4-square mile (10-square kilometer), heavily guarded strip on the Tigris River was known as "Little America" following the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It then became a hated symbol of the country's inequality, fueling the perception among Iraqis that their government is out of touch. Dec. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)
Iraqi security forces remove concrete blast walls at the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Iraqi security forces remove concrete blast walls at the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Iraqi traffic police officers stand at a busy intersection inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Iraqi traffic police officers stand at a busy intersection inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. May 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Iraqi soldiers practice ahead of the Army Day parade at the “Victory Arch”, in Baghdad's Green Zone, Iraq. Jan. 3, 2009 (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)
Iraqi soldiers practice ahead of the Army Day parade at the “Victory Arch”, in Baghdad's Green Zone, Iraq. Jan. 3, 2009 (AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File)
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wave national flags as they end their sit-in outside the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wave national flags as they end their sit-in outside the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
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