An Iraqi official says Baghdad has sent security reinforcements to the southern Basra province to rein in violent crime and tribal disputes that have surged in recent months as troops have been off battling the Islamic State group in the country's northwest.

An army division and a police battalion were redeployed from southern Iraq in late 2014, creating a security vacuum in the oil-rich and overwhelmingly Shiite region, which is home to some 3 million people.

The deputy head of Basra's provincial council, Walid Gytan, said Sunday that the forces "are essential to maintain security in the province," without elaborating.

A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief reporters, says the reinforcements include a tank regiment and a commando battalion.