Security

Basra campaign takes aim at organised crime

By Khalid al-Taie

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Joint Iraqi forces in February began a security campaign to crack down on organised crime networks in Basra province. [Photo courtesy of Basra Operations Command]

A recently-launched security campaign targeting organised crime and drug trafficking in Basra province has already seen results, officials told Diyaruna.

The Iraqi government has dispatched around 20,000 security personnel to Basra to support local forces as part of the campaign, which kicked off February 21st.

These include army, counter-terrorism, intelligence, local and federal police forces.

The campaign came in response to demands that the rule of law be enforced.

"The government has responded to our calls and sent a large military force to our province that has started executing its mission," said Basra provincial council security committee chairman Jabbar al-Saidi.

"This force, along with the local forces, have moved towards areas where there are wanted individuals and unrest and have sealed them off," he told Diyaruna.

Search and detention missions are being conducted in these areas, he said.

The campaign is proceeding according to plan, he added, noting that more than 20 arrests were made during its first few days on charges that include murder, theft, drug trafficking and causing public strife.

Pre-emptive operations

Most targeted areas are in northern Basra, including al-Qarna, al-Haritha, al-Karma as well as other areas in the centre such as al-Qobla, al-Saidi said.

"We hope that these security operations will continue and become a fixture rather than occur on a temporary basis," he said, calling for increased intelligence efforts and pre-emptive operations.

Tribal conflict has been a source of concern in Basra, with rivalries and conflicts over various issues often leading to armed confrontation.

This has become a dangerous trend that threatens public security and innocent lives, Basra provincial council member Sheikh Ahmed al-Sulaiti said, describing tribal conflicts as the area's "biggest security challenge".

Outlaws have taken advantage of shortages in security personnel, as many have been sent to fight the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), he said.

"Our main demand was that these security personnel return to their posts, particularly after liberation," he said.

The new interim security measures have been well received by residents, however, as "they are being conducted smoothly and with a high level of flexibility, without affecting the daily lives of the local population", he noted.

Most-wanted criminals

The campaign's initial objective is to capture the most-wanted criminals.

"There are 1,200 arrest warrants out there for very dangerous criminals," said researcher Hisham al-Hashimi, who specialises in extremist movements.

These individuals have attacked state-owned facilities such as ports, border crossings, energy and oil facilities, public buildings and roads, he told Diyaruna.

Other crimes include "drug manufacturing and dealing, arms dealing and possession as well as flooding the local market with expired goods", he added.

Al-Hashimi stressed the importance of military action to maintain stability.

"Basra is a province rich in oil and natural resources and is considered to be Iraq’s economic lifeline," he said.

Targeting these mafias and bringing an end to dangerous armed conflict and crime is important for bringing in investment and boosting the national economy, he added.

Basra resident Rasoul Hakem told Diyaruna he welcomes the security initiative.

"We have been waiting for something like this for a long time," he said. "We want to get rid of all those who disrupt the security of our province. We liberated our land from terrorists, and now we need to cleanse it of criminal gangs."

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