Iraq's prime minister and high-level military officials arrived in the northern city of Mosul Wednesday, ahead of a new phase of a major military operation there. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern city of Irbil.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Mosul, just days after he pledged to parliament that there would soon be a new phase of a military campaign to rid Mosul - and all of Ninawa province - of militants.

Iraq's Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jasim says this operation has been going on for quite some time, with security forces following outlaws and terrorists.

He said a new phase of the operation began on May 10 with troops manning checkpoints around the city to prevent the flow of weapons in and to stop militants from escaping. He said the military has a timetable for this operation, and the goal is to end bloodshed and protect families living in Mosul.

But a council of local chiefs has expressed concern about the military operation. They say they are not being respected by the military and that some people have been unfairly detained.

Mosul's governor, Duraid Kashmoula, chastised local chiefs who are protesting against the military operation.

Governor Kashmoula said some sheiks did not speak up while militants were killing people, but now they are calling the citizens of Mosul to unite against the military operation. He said the government had often urged local leaders to call for unity against the terrorists, but some were silent.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari says security forces have been ordered to respect all civilians and to not detain people without warrants.

He added that the operation will be thorough because the military gained experience during operations in Baghdad and Basra.

Defense Minister Jasim echoed that sentiment. He said the military faced major challenges in Baghdad and the recent operation in Basra and learned to intelligently control the situations faced there.

Prime Minister Maliki was in the city of Basra in late March to launch a military operation there against Shi'ite militants. The campaign has been viewed as largely successful, with citizens saying the situation is now calm and life has returned to normal.