Iraqi government forces are preparing for the next phase of a planned
crackdown on militants and outlaws in the capital of southeastern
Iraq's Maysan province. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern
city of Irbil.
The commander of military operations in Maysan,
Tarik Abdul Wahab, met with local tribal and religious leaders in the
provincial capital Amarah on Tuesday. Wahab informed them about the
next phase of the military operation in the city, which is set to begin
in earnest on June 19.
The commander told Iraqi state
television, al-Iraqiya, that he explained the dangers that civilians
could face, as well as ways to minimize those dangers. He said the
leaders, especially the imams, asked many questions on behalf of
Amarah's citizens. Commander Wahab added that the religious leaders
will go to back the mosques and explain the security measures and
operation to the public.
The military announced the operation
several days ago. Helicopters dropped leaflets across Amarah on
Saturday, urging residents to remain in their homes and not to
interfere with the operation. Late Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki issued a statement giving militants until June 18 to
surrender their medium and heavy weapons in exchange for money.
Amarah borders Iran, and it is believed to be a major region for weapons smuggling.
spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry, Abdul Kareem Khalaf, praised
Mr. Maliki's decision to order the operation. He said the citizens of
Maysan had been waiting a long time for the military to take action
against outlaws in the region.
An Islamic imam who was present
at the military commander's briefing told al-Iraqiya that the upcoming
operation is needed in order to save lives. He added that the
city's leaders support this mission that targets outlaws, and that the
Iraqi forces will need the cooperation of Amarah's citizens.
is a majority Shi'ite province. Officials say Amarah is a stronghold
for anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
Sadr has said his followers will not resist the government troops.
recent months, the Iraqi army has staged similar offensives in
Baghdad's Sadr City, Basra and Mosul in an effort to clear the cities
of militants and to improve stability in the country.