THE LEVANT – Iraq’s outgoing prime minster pledged Monday to turn his country into “a big grave” for Sunni militants from the Islamic State group and commended security forces who achieved a rare victory over insurgents by ending the siege of a Shiite town.
Nouri al-Maliki made the comments during an unannounced visit to the northern community of Amirli, where he was greeted with hugs. A day earlier, Iraqi forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke a two-month siege of 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 those who fought in the battle.
“I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers,” he told a gathering of fighters in a large hall as they chanted Shiite religious slogans. He vowed to root out Sunni militants from areas they control in the country.
“All Iraq will be a grave for those infidels, and we will send all the IS (Islamic State) gang to death,” he added.
Hours before the visit, humanitarian aid began flowing to the town. Four trucks loaded with food and medicine arrived after being sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, according to Ali al-Bayati, who heads the aid organization called the Turkmen Saving Foundation. Soldiers began bringing food to families in their houses Sunday night.
“The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually,” al-Bayati told The Associated Press. “Some people have come out from their houses … . Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces.”