BAGHDAD — Helicopters blanketed the southern city of Amarah with pamphlets Saturday, urging residents to cooperate with Iraqi security forces as they prepare for a new operation against Shiite militia fighters, police said.
The pamphlets urged residents to provide information about "the hideouts of outlaws" and warned them to stay indoors when the new operation dubbed "Imposing Law" starts, two local police officers said on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release information to the media. No kickoff date for the operation was provided in the pamphlets.
In advance of the operation, Iraqi soldiers accompanied by American military advisers have begun moving into the oil-producing city of Amarah, the capital of Maysan province and the purported hub of weapons smuggling from nearby Iran.
On Friday, American jets fired on militants who were trying to launch rockets at Iraqi security forces and coalition troops in Amarah, said Lt. Col. Chris Charleville, a U.S. military spokesman in Basra.
He had no information about casualties in the air attack. The British military denied Iraqi reports that three Iraqi police officers were wounded.
Normal life continued in Amarah, although more checkpoints have been erected and patrols have increased, residents said.
U.S. and Iraqi commanders say many militia chiefs have fled to Amarah and Iran after security operations against them in Basra and Baghdad's Sadr City district.
Amarah, a longtime haven for anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, is about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad and is separated from Iran by marshes that have been used by smugglers for centuries.
Security officials say senior militia leaders have left for Iran and only lower-level militiamen were left in Amarah. With an overwhelmingly Shiite population, Maysan has largely been spared from sectarian bloodshed that plagued the rest of Iraq.