Iraq violence unabated; 460 killed in April

Updated 02 May 2013
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Iraq violence unabated; 460 killed in April

BAGHDAD: Violence in Iraq rose sharply in April, killing 460 people according to AFP figures, as May started off with attacks that left 13 people dead yesterday, including six police and four anti-Qaeda fighters.
The majority of the April deaths came during a wave of unrest that began near the end of the month when security forces moved on anti-government protesters in north Iraq, sparking clashes that killed 53 people.
Dozens more people died in subsequent violence that included revenge attacks on security forces, raising fears of a return to the all-out sectarian conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.
Protesters have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and railed against authorities for allegedly targeting the people with wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.
Unrest in April also wounded 1,219 people, according to the AFP figures, which are based on reports from security and medical sources.
Among the dead in April were 54 police, 53 soldiers, 14 Sahwa Anti-Qaeda militiamen, and two members of the Kurdish security forces.
The wounded included 171 police, 76 soldiers, eight Sahwa fighters and five Kurdish security forces members.
The majority of the rest of those killed and wounded in April were civilians, although the figures also include some gunmen who died or were injured in clashes with security forces.
In March, 271 people were killed and 906 wounded in violence, though those figures only included security forces and civilians.
The month of May began with more deadly attacks.
A suicide bomber targeted Sahwa militiamen in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, killing a police officer and four Sahwa, while a car bomb in Ramadi killed three police and another in the capital left three more people dead, security and medical officials said.
Gunmen also attacked a checkpoint near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, killing two more police.
“Conditions have definitely worsened in the country,” said John Drake, an Iraq specialist with risk consulting firm AKE Group.
“If the government fails to contain the unrest and address some of the grievances of the protesters, the momentum could certainly build and lead to a reemergence of widespread violence,” he said.
The wave of unrest at the end of April raised fears in Iraq of a return to sectarian conflict.
Maliki has warned of “those who want to take the country back to sectarian civil war,” and also said that sectarian strife “came back to Iraq because it began in another place in this region,” an apparent reference to Syria.
The civil war in neighboring Syria pitting rebels against the regime of President Bashar Assad has killed more than 70,000 people.
Abdulghafur Al-Samarraie and Saleh Al-Haidari, top clerics who head different religious endowments, have held a joint news conference in which they warned against sectarian strife.
Samarraie said there were “malicious plans... with the goal of taking the country towards sectarian conflict.”
Violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak during the height of the sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, when death tolls of over 1,000 a month were reported.
But attacks remain common, with people killed on 29 of the 30 days in April, and more than 200 people dead in unrest each month so far this year.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 23 May 2018
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

  • Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week
  • The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.