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500 detained in Iraq after mass arrests near Baghdad, reports

Locals say security forces have imposed a blockade on areas of Abu Ghraib since an explosion targeted the country's volunteer militia force
Members of the Iraqi security forces stand guard during a demonstration on 13 June (AFP)

Iraqi security forces conducted mass raids around the capital Baghdad on Friday evening, arresting up to 500 people.

A local source told the Turkish Anadolu Agency that forces from the army, backed up by highly trained SWAT teams, had raided and searched houses in the Abu Ghraib district just west of Baghdad.

“They arrested a huge number of people without giving any reason,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, told Anadolu.

Another local who spoke to Arabic news site al-Araby al-Jadeed said that members of the volunteer militia forces accompanied the Iraqi army during the raids.

According to the source, many of those detained were either university students or secondary school pupils.

The local resident also said that areas of Abu Ghraib, a Baghdad satellite town of nearly 200,000 people in Islamic State-controlled Anbar province, had been closed off by the security services for over a week after an explosion targeted the mainly Shia militia forces on a road linking Baghdad and Falluja.

“In the wake of that explosion government forces and the militias enclosed [parts of Abu Ghraib], and cut off phone lines and internet there.”

The raids were condemned by the Iraqi Powers Coalition, a political party that said it had contacted the Defence Minister Khalid al-Abidi, in an attempt to halt the policy of house raids.

“The Iraqi Powers Coalition condemns the campaign of random arrests that is being pursued in many areas of Abu Ghraib,” MP Talal al-Zubai said in a statement.

Zubai stressed that the raids had been carried out in areas where the local population had “not allowed Islamic State to enter”.

A military insider told Anadolu that the mass arrests were part of a “routine operation to preserve security in the Baghdad belt [areas around the capital]”.