Baghdad,: Iraqi soldiers have raided nightclubs and other venues serving alcohol in Baghdad, with several customers allegedly beaten, officials said, with the motive for the raids not immediately clear.
Special forces units carried out near-simultaneous raids at around 8:00 pm on Wednesday "at dozens of nightclubs in Karrada and Arasat, and beat up customers with the butts of their guns and batons," said an interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Artists who were performing at the clubs were also beaten," the official said.
Another official, who also declined to be identified, said the raids were ordered by Lieutenant General Faruq al-Araji, the top security official in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office, but he did not say why.
Araji commands the army's elite 56th Brigade, which is charged with security for Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to parliament, government buildings and the US and British embassies.
"The men of the 56th Brigade were ordered to close the bars, nightclubs and shops where alcohol is served, but they also vandalised those places," the official said.
In the aftermath of the raids, the clubs and bars were closed.
After years of violence and conflict raging on Baghdad's streets, the capital's nightlife has slowly been returning, but attacks remain common and revelry is held back by persistent power shortages and an overnight curfew that takes effect from 1:00 am every night.