Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi chose on Sunday one of the country’s largest popular markets to kick off his campaign to collect illegal weapons and their traders.
Located in Sadr city east of Baghdad, the Mreidy market is notorious for selling and buying all sorts of used goods, including stolen ones.
Despite a crackdown by the former regime and strict government measures, the market has retained its reputation for a place to sell these goods, as well as print counterfeit currency and forge official signatures.
After 2003, the market became known for distributing fake school and university degrees. Seals of official speeches could also be found there, including those belonging to the president, parliament speaker and prime minister.
It has also transformed into a massive weapons cache, prompting the government to launch its crackdown from there. Its efforts will be backed by the military and air force, due to the dangerous mission it is undertaking and the possibility of the eruption of clashes with arms dealers.
The two-hour campaign resulted in the confiscation of large amounts of assorted weapons, as well as the arrest of several traders, many of whom had outstanding arrest warrants against them.
The security and defense parliamentary committee hailed the government’s measure as a “step in the right direction.”
Committee member Mohammed al-Karbouli told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are some regions in Baghdad where all sorts of weapons are stored.”
They should be collected by the state and their possession should be limited to it as it had previously pledged, he stressed.
“This is an important step and we hope that it will widen to not only include the Mreidy market because there are armed gangs in several other regions,” he remarked.
In addition, he noted that Abadi had vowed in the past to remove all weapons from al-Karrada, but that has unfortunately not happened yet as some party headquarters still hold arms.
A number of factions also possess weapons, even though they have permits to carry them, he revealed.
Karbouli said however that carrying arms on the streets of Baghdad sends a wrong message that the threats still exist.
“We, on the other hand, want to forge ahead towards stability, especially after ISIS was expelled,” he stressed.
He said that the security and defense parliamentary committee is supporting the government efforts to collect unlicensed weapons.
Security expert Fadel Abou Raghif told Asharq Al-Awsat that the campaign in the Mreidy market will give the central and southern Euphrates operations commanders the push to follow up on the possession of arms among some tribes.
This possession of weapons has turned into a danger against the Iraqi society, especially since the southern regions are witnessing security stability, he warned.