Iraqi police and soldiers took to the streets Friday to enforce a daytime ban on private vehicles in the strife-prone capital and its outskirts.
The measure was designed to avert attacks during midday prayers Friday when large numbers of Muslims congregate for the most important service of the week.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also warned preachers not to incite hatred or violence in their sermons, threatening them with "severe measures" in a statement Thursday announcing the restrictions.
The vehicle ban took effect as the regular overnight curfew ended at 6 a.m. and was due to last until 4 p.m.
Residents expressed some frustration that the announcement came only late Thursday, leaving them no time to stock up on food and other provisions. But most accepted the move as necessary to blunt a recent surge in sectarian killing and other attacks.
"A curfew is normal in such situations. It's a way to stop terrorists from carrying out their operations," said Saad Juwad Kadim, a taxi driver forced to take the day off Friday.
Hundreds have been killed in the violence trigged by the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in the central city of Samarra and reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques. An extraordinary daytime curfew and vehicle restrictions last weekend helped curb the worst of the sectarian killing, but attacks continued this week.
Security forces sealed off Baghdad on Friday, preventing most vehicles from entering or leaving the city of 7 million, said Capt. Adil Mohan of the traffic police.
Armed police and soldiers in bulletproof vests manned checkpoints across the city, preventing cars and motorcycles from leaving their neighborhoods. Exceptions were made for journalists and families facing health emergencies, reports the AP.
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