Sharepoint page layouts often include the following markup:
<div xmlns:ie="ie"> <!-- contents --> </div>
What's the use of the attribute
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This is an XML Namespace definition. In this case, SharePoint has defined an XML Namespace with both its prefix and URN set to "ie".
In the interests of not duplicating information, I've added some links from within StackExchange that provide a good understanding of what you can do with XML Namespaces: