Report: Iraqi security forces preparing operation against Mahdi Army in Maysan
The Iraqi government is expanding its operations in the South into the Sadrist and Mahdi Army stronghold in Maysan province, according to reports.
"Maysan witnessed on Thursday the arrival of large numbers of national police forces from Baghdad and Iraqi army troops from Basrah," a source in the province told Voices of Iraq. "The operation includes pursuing person wanted for judiciary authorities, removing all excesses, searching for medium and heavy weapons and evacuating government buildings" illegally occupied by political parties and movements.
Iraqi forces are said to be massing at the military airport outside of Amarah, the provincial capital. Police are said to establishing checkpoints along the roads entering the province.
An operation in Maysan was predicted by Nibras Kazimi on May 24. "Arrest warrants for Maysan officials are being prepared, and intelligence is being gathered about other Sadrist leaders who have gone into hiding there," Kazimi said, noting the province has long been a safe haven for the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement, and heavily influenced by Iran's Qods Force.
Maysan is a strategic link for the Ramazan Corps, the Iranian military command set up by Qods Force to direct operations inside Iraq. Amarah serves as the Qods Force / Ramazan Corps forward command and control center inside Iraq as well as one of the major distribution points for weapons in southern Iraq.
The Iraqi security forces have stepped up operations against the Ramazan Corps and the Mahdi Army in the southern provinces over the past several months. Operation Knights' Assault was launched against the Mahdi Army in Basrah on March 25. After six days of heavy fighting, the Mahdi Army pushed for a ceasefire. The Iraqi security forces also dealt the Mahdi Army a heavy blow in the southern provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qassadiyah, and Wasit.
The Iraqi security forces and the US military also confronted the Mahdi Army in Sadr City in Baghdad. After six weeks of heavy fighting, the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government signed a ceasefire that allowed the military to enter Sadr City uncontested.
During the month of May, the Iraqi security forces expanded operations throughout Basrah province in Az Zubayr, Al Qurnah, and Abu Al Khasib along the Iranian border. This week, an operation kicked off in Dhi Qhar province, which borders Maysan to the southeast.
Activity in Wasit province
With Iraqi forces massing in Maysan, activity has picked up in Wasit province, which borders Maysan to the north. Police reportedly arrested Sheikh Hussein Yassin Ubaid al Attabi, a senior member of the Sadrist movement in Al Kut.
Meanwhile, Coalition forces captured an "Iranian-trained weapons smuggler" in Al Kut. US and Iraqi forces have captured six senior Special Groups leaders in Wasit province since June 3.
The Mahdi Army has stepped up attacks in Wasit province. Two policemen were killed and three were wounded in a roadside bombing attack in Al Kut. Three civilians were wounded in a separate roadside bomb attack.
In Basrah, Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a "Special Groups criminal ... involved in the kidnapping and killing of Iraqi Army soldiers and murder of Iraqi civilians."