Just a few days after militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria -- an al-Qaida-linked group known as ISIS -- took control of the country's second-largest city, Mosul, the prime minister ordered troops to make a stand in Samarra and protect its religious shrines and mosques.
Samarra is located about 83 miles north of the capital of Baghdad.
"Samarra will be the starting point, the gathering station of our troops to cleanse every inch that was desecrated by footsteps of those traitors," al-Maliki said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense sent aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to the Persian Gulf on Saturday.
The move gives U.S. President Barack Obama "additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.
Though the Iraqi military says it has regained control of most of Salaheddin province, a Twitter account purported to be linked with ISIS shows militant fighters brutally executing dozens of men in the province.
The account was suspended by Twitter.