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Officials have reopened the main bridge to Samarra, Iraq, calling it a sign of progress in what had been considered one of the country’s most lawless cities until recently.

Violence fueled by the bombing of a Shiite shrine there nearly two years ago had restricted bridge traffic and essentially closed entrances to Samarra for the past eight months. Commerce was at a virtual standstill until now.

“The reopening of the bridge is a positive sign for improved security, as well as an improvement of freedom for the citizens of Samarra to conduct their daily lives,” Capt. Josh Kurtzman, of the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and commander of coalition forces in Samarra, said in a news release.

Last month, American troops ceded a patrol base near Samarra to Iraqi forces who are using it to secure the bridge and surrounding towns.

Navy corpsman accused of wearing false medalsNORFOLK, Va. — A Navy petty officer has been charged with wearing ribbons and medals he didn’t earn, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Dontae Tazewell, a hospital corpsman assigned to a Yorktown medical clinic, is charged with one count of making a false official statement, eight counts of forging documents related to the insignia and 11 counts of wearing unauthorized badges or medals.

The Navy says Tazewell is scheduled for a court-martial Jan. 15 in Norfolk. If convicted, Tazewell faces up to five years’ confinement for each count of forging documents and making a false official statement, and six months for each count of wearing unauthorized decorations. According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, punishment also could include dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay and allowances.

Wire reports contributed to these briefs

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