BEIRUT

Middle East

Iraq premier: Militant 'shock' restored unity

This Dec. 3, 2011 file photo shows Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

BAGHDAD: Iraq's prime minister says his government has regained the initiative after the "shock" defeat of his security forces in the face of a lightning attack by Sunni militants in the country's north.

Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been in office since 2006, said in a televised address Wednesday that the loss of a large swath of territory last week has helped Iraq restore its national unity.

Al-Maliki said: "But we were able to contain the strike and arrest deterioration. ... We have now started our counteroffensive, regaining the initiative and striking back."

Al-Maliki's upbeat assessment came as news broke of government forces regaining parts of a strategic city near the Syrian border that was captured Monday by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

 

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