Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 19:22 UK

Baghdad blast walls to come down

By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Baghdad

Two Iraqi women walk past cement blast walls scared by a detonated road side bomb which targeted a police patrol in the Karada district of the capital, Baghdad
The plan to remove blast walls in Baghdad has led to mixed reactions

The Iraqi government has announced that within the next 40 days all blast walls will be removed from Baghdad.

The building of the walls escalated in 2006 at the height of the sectarian violence.

Many residents complain that the barriers have made the city unrecognisable, but they also say that they have made neighbourhoods safer.

The move comes just a month after United States troops pulled out of cities across Iraq.

The news of the removal has provoked mixed reactions.

"It's a good step because it reduces traffic jams and makes us feel that the situation has improved and life is back to normal," said Waleed, who works as a taxi driver in Baghdad.

"But on the other hand, it may encourage more attacks."

Real threat

Since the American withdrawal, the government has been keen to show that it is in full control of the security situation, but many people here wonder whether Baghdad is ready for the move.

"The Americans have just left the Iraqi cities and we have witnessed a rise in terrorist activities," said Mohammed Jasim, a blacksmith in Baghdad.

"We need to keep roads as they are until the security forces are really capable of taking control over the cities. I think the time has not come yet," he added

Violence in Iraq has declined significantly in comparison to two years ago, when people were dying by the hundreds every day.

But explosions, attacks and roadside bombs are still part of everyday life here, and the government admits that insurgents, including al-Qaeda, still pose a very real threat.

Last Friday 30 people were killed in a series of bomb attacks that targeted Shia mosques across the city.

On Tuesday night, five people were killed in a roadside bomb explosion in Dora, one Baghdad's predominantly Sunni neighbourhoods.

And so the question is whether giving Baghdad its face back could also create new opportunities for those who do not want the violence to stop.

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