BASRA, Iraq- Iraq sent an armoured army division and a police strike force into the southern oil city of Basra to disarm residents at a time of escalating clashes between rival Shiite Muslim tribes, a local official and three security sources reported on Friday.
Major oil producer, OPEC gets the majority of crude exports from oil fields around Basra, far from the northern and western parts of the country controlled by Islamic State. But fighting in the area has forced the government in Baghdad to resort to the southern province for critical resources.
“This security operation targets areas north of Basra that have an abundance of tribal clashes and will also include neighbourhoods inside Basra city in the future,” said Jabar al-Saadi, head of the security committee at the Basra provincial council.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi held his weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday in Basra where he called on security forces to “strike with an iron fist (against) the gangs that tamper with Basra’s security”.
With tanks and heavy machine guns, the security forces entered overnight the northern district of al-Hussein, a flash point for tribal fighting also known as al-Hayaniya, Saadi said. They began raiding homes and seizing weapons, with .backup from army helicopters.
Security forces reported around 30 people arrested on criminal charges and seized machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and large ammunition caches.