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 / Updated  / Source: Associated Press

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's prime minister said Wednesday that his government has regained the initiative after the "shock" defeat of its army and security forces in 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 that the loss last week of a large swath of territory has helped Iraq restore its national unity.

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

- The Associated Press