Insurgents determined to derail this weekend's historic referendum bombed an office of Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political party yesterday, police said, after the group dropped its opposition to the draft constitution.
No one was wounded by the roadside bomb outside the Iraqi Islamic Party office in Fadhal, a district of central Baghdad. But the rare attack against the group by Sunni-led insurgents appeared aimed at punishing it for deciding to end its "no" campaign against the referendum after lawmakers agreed on Wednesday night to several amendments to the constitution designed to win Sunni support in today's vote.
On Thursday, Iraqi Islamic Party banners urging a "no" vote had been removed from where they hung near monuments such as the capital's main Grand Imam mosque.
"This attack by insurgents against the Islamic Party was expected because of its new stand toward the referendum," Iraqi army Major Salman Abdul Yahid said in an interview. "Insurgents had threatened to attack the group and its leaders in order to get revenge."
Many other Sunni Arab parties still oppose the charter. They fear it would divide Iraq into three separate districts: powerful mini-states of Kurds in the north and majority Shiites in the south, both capitalizing on Iraq's oil wealth. By contrast, many Sunnis fear, their minority would be left isolated in central and western Iraq with a weak central government in Baghdad.
On Wednesday night, the National Assembly endorsed last-minute changes to the draft constitution worked out by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni powerbrokers that will allow a new parliament scheduled to be elected in December to adopts amendments to the constitution.
The draft constitution now being considered by voters is expected to pass today. It requires a majority, and it will be adopted unless two-thirds of voters in three provinces vote "no." Sunnis only have a majority in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.
Yesterday's roadside bomb attack against the Iraqi Islamic Party came as coalition forces closed Iraq's borders and its international airport in Baghdad in another effort to improve security to protect voters. On Thursday, a new 10pm to 6am curfew was imposed, and a four-day holiday started across the country, closing government offices and schools.
All civilian vehicles will be banned today as Iraqis are expected to walk by the thousands to 6,100 polling centers in Iraq.
The referendum is an important step in the Bush administration's efforts to one day withdraw the tens of thousands of US forces from Iraq after establishing a stable and democratic government that is strong enough to fight the country's deadly insurgent groups.
Coalition forces have warned of a spike in attacks by the militants ahead of today's vote, and nearly 450 people have died in violence over the past 19 days, often by insurgents using suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and drive-by shootings. Many other Iraqis have been kidnapped and killed, with their bodies abandoned in remote areas.
Hundreds of Iraqi police and army troops have fanned out across Baghdad, setting up checkpoints and fortifying polling stations with barbed wire and blast barriers.
An eerie calm has settled over Baghdad and other cities, with little traffic on the streets, few pedestrians and many shops closed.
In Shiite areas of Baghdad, hundreds of posters and banners urging a ``yes'' vote were plastered on many walls and shop windows. Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has ordered his followers to approve the constitution.
But few such posters hung in mostly Sunni districts of the city.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of