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Iraq's outgoing prime minister traveled to a small northern Shiite town Monday, praising its residents for fending off attacks by Sunni militants who had besieged them for more than two months until security forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke the siege a day earlier. Jubilant security forces, Shiite fighters and residents of Amirli greeted Nouri al-Maliki with hugs and Shiite slogans when he arrived in the town, where some 15,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded.
In footage aired on state TV, al-Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistsani, ordering promotions and awards for forces who took part in ending the siege. "I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers," he told a gathering of fighters in the large hall, as they chanted Shiite religious slogans. Hours before the visit, aid began to flow to the town.
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