The Iraqi security forces today formally kicked off the operations against the Mahdi Army in the southern province of Maysan. On the day the government’s amnesty offer expired, the Iraqi Army and police conducted multiple raids throughout Amarah, the provincial capital. A senior Sadrist was detained during the raids.
Iraqi forces arrested Rafeaa Jabar, the head of the Sadrist office in Maysan province. He is the mayor of Amarah and the deputy governor of the province.
The Sadrists had stated they feared being the target of the operation. “We do not want Basrah events to be repeated in Amara,” Sheikh Salih al Obaidi, the lead spokesman for the Sadrist movement said on June 17. Obaidi instead called for “dialogue.” The Sadrist movement also closed down its office in central Amarah and “moved to another ‘good location.'”
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki explicitly stated that the Sadrist movement is not the target of the Amarah operation. “The prime minister has ordered security forces not to arrest members of the Sadr movement randomly,” according to a statement issued by Maliki’s office. “Only outlaws must be arrested and he hopes that the Sadr leaders will help in isolating such elements to get rid of them.”
There have been no reports of major clashes or opposition to the Iraqi operations. Dozens of wanted individuals have been detained and large quantities of weapons have been found during the operation. Sixty “militiamen” surrendered during the amnesty period. A partial curfew has been imposed on some regions.
While the operation officially kicked off today, the Iraqi security forces have been operating in force throughout Maysan since last Saturday, when patrols and raids began in Amarah. Security forces began massing in Amarah last Thursday and Iraqi soldiers replaced border guards along the Iranian border.
A flurry of activity occurred in Amarah on June 18. Iraqi soldiers captured three wanted individuals during an air assault in central Amarah. Twelve policemen were detained for storing weapons and explosives in a jail in the city. Iraqi forces also found a large weapons cache in a cemetery in central Amarah.
Iraqi security forces have also stepped up security in the neighboring provinces of Dhi Qhar and Wasit. North of Maysan in Wasit province said “tight security measures” have been imposed to assist in the Maysan operation, according to security officials. On June 18, police seized a car “laden with 27 Iranian-made bombs” and detained the driver. Coalition forces detained three more Mahdi Army operatives in Al Kut on June 17. The US military has captured 12 mid-level and senior Mahdi Army leaders in Wasit province since June 3.
The Mahdi Army has pushed back in Wasit province. A district police chief and another officer were killed and 10 policemen were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack on June 17.
In Dhi Qhar, which borders Maysan to the south, provincial officials said operations are under way to support the Maysan offensive. “A detailed plan has been established in the province to maintain stability during the expected drive into Maysan province,” Staff Brigadier General Sabah al Fatlawi, the provincial chief of police, told Voices of Iraq. Police found a large cache of TNT during a raid in northern Dhi Qhar on June 18.
For background on the Maysan security operation, see:
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