Iraqi security forces continue to target the Sadrist movement and the Mahdi Army in the southern provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qhar, and Wasit over the weekend. More than 113 Mahdi Army fighters and Sadrists were detained since Friday, including a senior Sadrist leader in the city of Al Kut. The arrests come as a major operation was launched in the former Mahdi Army stronghold in Maysan province.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces detained Sayyid Tahseen, a senior member of Muqtada al Sadr’s political movement, in Al Kut in Wasit province. Iraqi police described Tahseen as “one of the most important individual wanted by security forces” who is “wanted for more than 45 cases, including armed operations against security forces, in addition to killing and abduction of innocent people.”
Police seized “quantities of arms” from Tahseen’s home after a gun battle erupted during efforts to detain him. Tahseen was wounded during the battle.
Iraqi security forces detained 65 Mahdi Army fighters and seized weapons caches during operations north of the city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qhar province. “These raids coincide with military operations carried out by Iraqi forces to impose order and law in Maysan province,” Major Nasser Majidi told Voices of Iraq.
In Maysan province, Iraqi security forces detained 61 Mahdi Army fighters and raided a Sadrist headquarters in and around Amarah.
Twenty policemen accused of being part of a kidnapping and extra judicial killing squad were arrested on June 20.
On June 21, fourteen “important wanted people” were captured and a major roadside bomb factory was found. The factory was said to make “sticky improvised explosive devices,” which likely are limpet mines that are attached to vehicles.
On June 22, security forces conducted two major sweeps inside Amarah. Sixteen Mahdi Army fighters were detained and a roadside bomb factory was found after police received intelligence on the presence of Mahdi Army leaders in the area. A large weapons cache was found “in the office of a representative for Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr.” A second raid netted 11 “dangerous” Mahdi Army fighters and seven large weapons caches.
Sadrists continue to complain about raids
The Iraqi security forces have conducted operations in the South with little to no opposition from the Mahdi Army. The gunfight during the detention of Sadrist leader Sayyid Tahseen was the only reported incident since the operation went into full swing last Thursday.
The Sadrist political leaders continue to complain about the tactics used by the Iraqi government and the security forces.
“The security plan in Maysan province was shifted from security targets to political targets,” said Sadrists Member of Parliament Amira al Atabi during a press conference in Baghdad. “Anyone who has ties with the Sadr movement was arrested including the chief of the local council, council members, and head of the council’s integrity committee.”
Iraqi security forces detained the mayor of Amarah, a senior Sadrist leader who also served as the deputy governor, and at least five other Sadrist members of the provincial council after the operation began. The Sadrists closed down their office in Amarah and the senior political leader in the province is on the run.
Atabi and other Sadrist leaders have said Iraqi forces are conducting human rights violations and illegal arrests. Atabi also accused the Iraqi forces of “tearing up Martyr al Sadr [Muqtada’s father] and Sayyid Muqtada’s photos.”
But other than Sadrist claims of human rights violation, there have been no reports of abuse in the press. The Iraqi security forces said they have issued warrants for the arrests of Sadrist leaders and Mahdi Army fighters. Police and military officers have said those captured were “wanted” individuals.
Amarah is a strategic hub for Iranian operations in southern Iraq
Maysan province 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 cease-fire. The Iraqi security forces also dealt the Mahdi Army a heavy blow in the southern provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qassadiyah, and Wasit during that timeframe.
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 cease-fire 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. Last week, an operation kicked off in Dhi Qhar province, which borders Maysan to the southeast. The Mahdi Army has not fought back as the Iraqi secuirty forces are moving into their strongholds in the South.
For background on the Maysan security operation, see:
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