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Iraq planning to build giant "wall" around Baghdad

An Iraqi woman walks with her child next to a wall pock marked from previous battles, in the al Fadhil area of Baghdad, Iraq, Oct . 20, 2008.


BAGHDAD -- A spokesman for Iraq's prime minister said Sunday that a security wall is being built around Baghdad but that it is "not politically motivated" or aimed at "achieving demographic change."

Saad al-Hadithi spoke to The Associated Press after an earlier statement from the prime minister's office seemed to dismiss the idea entirely. "Baghdad is the capital for all Iraqis and it's not possible for a wall or a fence to isolate the city," the earlier statement said.

The plan for the wall was originally drafted by the Interior Ministry as an effort to curb near-daily attacks carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and cut down on checkpoints inside the city that snarl traffic.

The Interior Ministry's spokesman, police Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, told The Associated Press that the "wall" would be comprised of an increased number of checkpoints around the city cutting off routes that ISIS uses to smuggle car bombs in.

"It's not a wall exactly," Maan said. "We have reduced the number of attacks inside Baghdad, but we are working to prevent them completely."

Baghdad has seen near-daily bombings since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, mainly carried out by Sunni militants targeting the security forces and the country's Shiite majority. Security officials say most of the bombs are built outside the city and smuggled in despite a labyrinth of roadblocks and checkpoints.

In 2008 it was reported that rows after rows of barrier walls were dividing the city into smaller and smaller areas that protect people from bombings, sniper fire and kidnappings. Those walls also lead to gridlock, rising prices for food and homes, and complaints about living in what feels like a prison.

Baghdad's walls were reported to be everywhere in 2008, turning a riverside capital of leafy neighborhoods and palm-lined boulevards where Shiites and Sunnis once mingled into a city of shadows separating the two Muslim sects. The walls blocked access to schools, mosques, churches, hotels, homes, markets and even entire neighborhoods -- almost anything that could be attacked.

For many Iraqis, they had become the iconic symbol of the war.

"Maybe one day they will remove it," said Kareem Mustapha, a young Sadr City resident who in 2008 lived a five-minute walk from a wall built this spring in the large Shiite district. "I don't know when, but it is not soon."