Iraq: Police arrest over 200 in raid on illegal casinos during Ramadan

Iraqi police arrested overnight almost 200 people in raids on illegal casinos where alcohol was served in defiance of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The raids targeted four locations in Baghdad where games of blackjack and roulette had been underway, ministry spokesman Saad Maan said.

A ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 159 Iraqi citizens and 32 foreigners including women were arrested, while large amounts of cash were seized.

Video footage released by the ministry showed several people rounded up and sitting on the ground before being taken away by the police.

Blackjack and roulettes tables are seen in the background as well as bottles of alcohol, the sale and consumption of which is strictly prohibited during Ramadan.

Islam prohibits gambling, and in conservative Muslim-majority Iraq public consumption of alcohol is frowned upon, although beverages can be readily purchased from liquor stores, many of them run by Christians or other non-Muslims.

In early March, before the start of Ramadan, Iraq’s customs department gave orders to start enforcing a ban on alcohol imports that had become law the previous month, despite divisions over the legislation.

The days following the order, liquor stores stayed open, and clients could still find a variety of beverages including whisky, beer and wine.

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