Iraqi forces, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters purge villages north of Baghdad of Daesh
Iraqi Army troops, supported by allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, successfully purged more than a dozen villages north of the capital Baghdad of Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
The media bureau of the volunteer fighters, commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, announced in a statement on Sunday that they, together with government troops, had cleansed four villages, including Al-Anaz, Arab Rashid Mahmoud and Arab As’af, in Al-Moshahedah region of the extremists following multipronged military operations there, Press TV reported.
Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and army soldiers had earlier purged fifteen villages surrounding Tarmiyah town, located about 25 kilometers north of Baghdad, of Daesh terrorists.
Also on Sunday, pro-government Iraqi forces could wipe Daesh Takfiri terrorists off Basatin ‘Awad and Hurrah districts west of Tarmiyah.
Second-in-Command of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rasheed Yarallah, said in a statement on Saturday that Iraqi military forces had launched the second phase of a major operation to hunt down the remnants of the Daesh terror group north of Baghdad and areas nearby.
The statement noted that the offensive aims to “to beef up security and stability in areas north of Baghdad and surrounding areas in the provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar.”
It said that units from the Baghdad Operations Command, command operations from Diyala, Samarra and Anbar, the Federal Police Command, rapid response teams, voluntary Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and the special forces regiment of the Operations Department of the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as the Special Task Force of the Directorate of Military Intelligence were participating in the offensive.
Iraq’s Army and the voluntary forces began the first phase of the Will of Victory Operation early on July 7, the military said in a statement, adding that the operation would last several days and was aimed at securing the province of Anbar and the central and northern regions of Salahuddin and Nineveh.
“We press on the hands of our heroic forces that will achieve victory with the will of its heroes against the gangs of Daesh,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said.
“May God protect you and make you victorious,” he added.
Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Daesh in the country on December 9, 2017.
On July 10 that year, he had formally declared victory over Daesh in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ last main urban stronghold in Iraq.
In the run-up to Mosul’s liberation, Iraqi Army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.
Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.
Female suicide bomber strikes hospital in Pakistan, nine killed
A female suicide bomber struck outside a hospital in Pakistan on Sunday as the wounded were being brought in from an earlier shooting against police, in a complex assault claimed by the Pakistani Taliban that killed a total of nine people and wounded another 30.
Salim Riaz Khan, a senior police officer in Dera Ismail Khan, said gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on police in a residential area, killing two, AP reported.
He said the bomber then struck at the entrance to the hospital, killing another four police and three civilians who were visiting their relatives.
According to him, eight police were among the wounded, and that many of the wounded were in critical condition.
Inayat Ullah, a local forensics expert, said the female attacker set off seven kilograms (15 pounds) of explosives packed with nails and ball-bearings.
The blast damaged the emergency room and forced it to shut down, according to a hospital official, who said the wounded were taken to a military hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The Taliban claimed the attack but did not acknowledge that the bomber was a woman. The group has launched scores of attacks going back nearly two decades, but almost all of them were carried out by men.
Pakistan’s military has carried out several major operations in recent years against the Taliban and other terrorists in areas along the porous border with Afghanistan. The violence has declined, but the terrorists still make their presence known through occasional attacks.
Later on Sunday, police said they had arrested 16 suspects in the attack, all of whom belong to banned organizations. Police officer Habib Ahmed said authorities also seized weapons during the manhunt.
Hammond plans to quit if Johnson becomes PM
Philip Hammond has told the BBC he intends to resign as chancellor if Boris Johnson becomes the UK’s next PM.
He said a no-deal Brexit, something Johnson has left open as an option, was “not something I could ever sign up to”.
Asked if he thought he would be sacked next week, Hammond said he would resign on Wednesday to Theresa May.
He said he intends to quit after Prime Minister’s Questions but before May steps down.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Hammond said it was important the next PM and his chancellor were “closely aligned” on Brexit policy.
Johnson has said the UK must leave the EU by the new Brexit deadline of 31 October “do or die, come what may”.
His leadership rival Jeremy Hunt has said a no-deal exit cannot be ruled out, but he is prepared to further delay Brexit if required to get a new withdrawal deal.
Hammond said the situation “might be more complicated” if Hunt wins the Tory leadership contest, but “all the polling” suggested Johnson would succeed.
“That is what is likely to happen, and I’m making my plans accordingly”, he said, adding he would wait until the result is announced on Tuesday to “see for sure.”
Hammond said he understood committing to leave by this date, even with no deal, would be a condition for serving in Johnson’s cabinet.
He said: “That is not something I could ever sign up to. It’s very important that a prime minister is able to have a chancellor that is closely aligned with him in terms of policy”.
He added that Jeremy Hunt’s position regarding a no-deal Brexit was “more nuanced”, and he had not demanded a “loyalty pledge” on the exit date from prospective ministers.
Hammond said he would support either man in their pursuit of a new Brexit deal, but it would not be possible to agree this before the end of October.
“A genuine pursuit of a deal will require a little longer,” he added.
Abe appears to be headed to victory as polls close in Japan
As polls closed in Japan on Sunday after lackluster turnout in national elections, voters appeared to have delivered a victory to the governing party of Abe Shinzo and its allies, according to the public broadcaster NHK, all but ensuring his place in history as the country’s longest-serving prime minister.
It was not yet clear whether Abe and his allies had also secured two-thirds of the seats in the Upper House of Parliament, a supermajority needed to fulfill his long-cherished ambition of revising a pacifist Constitution that has been in place since American occupiers created it in 1947, www.nytimes.com reported.
Nevertheless, the projected result represented a striking moment for Abe, who just a dozen years ago was forced to resign after one year as prime minister, following a defeat of his party in a parliamentary election. Now, Abe, who returned to power in 2012, is just four months shy of setting Japan’s leadership record.
During the campaign, Abe did not emphasize his desire to revise the Constitution, On Saturday night at his party’s final campaign rally in Tokyo, supporters waved Japanese flags as Abe promised to secure the country’s finances and touted his personal relationship with US President Donald Trump.
“We will firmly protect Japan,” he said.
Abe appeared headed to secure the electoral victory despite struggling to accomplish his other professed goals, including turbocharging the economy, raising the country’s sluggish birthrate or dramatically increasing the proportion of women in management and politics. In many ways, Abe’s success stems from the lack of a strong opposition rather than a public mandate for his party’s vision.
“The opposition is no good,” said Makoto Mugikura, 68, a voter. “There is nothing but the Liberal Democrats.”
With five major opposition parties, many voters have a hard time keeping them straight. New parties crop up in each election as old parties split and reconstitute.
“The opposition’s problem comes down to marketing and identity,” said Jeffrey W. Hornung, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation who focuses on Japan. “It’s hard to be able to have any sort of consistent voice when you come and go with different elections, and Abe and the L.D.P. have been able to capitalize on that.”
Some of the opposition parties hoped to distinguish themselves by putting forward more female candidates.
Under a law enacted last year, Japan’s political parties are encouraged to strive for gender parity in their candidates. A record 28 percent of candidates in the election on Sunday were women, with the Constitutional Democratic Party fielding a slate that was almost half female.
While Abe often says he envisions a society in which “women can shine,” fewer than one in six candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party are women, and there is only one woman in his cabinet.
Abe’s agenda for women is “window dressing,” said Noriko Sakoh, the author of “Doing Too Much Housework Will Destroy Japan.” She pointed to government policies such as tax abatements for husbands whose wives do not work and persistent waiting lists for government-subsidized day care despite the low birthrate.
Ms. Sakoh said she was attracted to a new progressive party called Reiwa Shinsengumi, which is backing a range of candidates from diverse backgrounds, including a single mother and two people with physical disabilities. On Sunday evening, Kyodo News said that Yasuhiko Funago, a candidate who uses a wheelchair and has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, had won a seat.
In a country where one-fifth of the population is now 70 or older, all the major parties focused on the national pension system during the campaign.
Just under two months before the election, the Financial Services Agency, a government regulator, warned that the country’s social security system would not be able to support the living standards of the elderly through retirement. Given the long life expectancies in Japan, the agency’s report suggested that an average couple would need an additional 20 million yen, or about $185,000, to live comfortably.
Officials in the Abe administration swiftly repudiated the report, and on the campaign trail Abe promised to increase annual pensions for low-income retirees by about $560.
Abe has said the government will fund the payments by encouraging more women and the elderly to work, and his party has vowed to raise the country’s consumption tax to 10 percent in the fall, as previously scheduled.
All five major opposition parties have said they would not raise the tax, although Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democrats, says the government has a responsibility to secure the retirement of its citizens.
“Isn’t it the job of the government to figure out how we can build a system that will work even if people don’t save 20 million yen?” he said last month.
In his final campaign speech on Saturday, Abe dismissed the opposition’s criticism.
“Regarding pensions and other social security benefits, the opposition parties are only fanning unease among the people without presenting alternative plans,” he said. “Without raising burdens, we cannot increase social security.”
A supporter at the rally said he did not plan to depend on the government for his retirement.
“I will take care of myself,” said Ichiro Hasumi, 65, a retired shipping company worker who said he was voting for Abe’s party because “he will best protect the national interest.”
“It’s Japan first,” he added.
Abe has worked hard to establish himself as a leader on the world stage, persistently courting Trump and working to improve ties with President Xi Jinping of China. During Trump’s visit to Japan in May, the relationship seemed to pay off when the American president said on Twitter that he would hold off on thorny trade negotiations until after the Japanese election this month.
For the opposition, it can be hard to counter such symbols of Abe’s power. It is also difficult to break through to a public that values stability or offer compelling new ideas for how to solve the country’s most difficult long-term problems, which are dictated by the demographics of a declining population and aging society.
“The challenges that Japan faces are very complicated, so there are in general not a lot of easy answers,” said Kristi Govella, assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Opposition parties tend to get pushed into an anti-Abe or anti-status-quo position, and that can be a difficult place to build a base of new, exciting policy ideas from.”
More attacks on congresswomen
US President Donald Trump on Sunday continued his attacks on four minority freshman Democrats, telling them they should “apologize” to America.