Erdogan's party seeks full recount in Istanbul

Turkey’s ruling party said Sunday that it will appeal for a full recount of all votes cast in Istanbul’s mayoral election, which the opposition narrowly won in a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the March 31 local elections, the opposition not only prevailed in a tight race in Istanbul’s financial and cultural center, it also took control of Ankara, the capital. Erdogan’s party, which held both cities for decades, contested the results, claiming the elections were “tainted.”

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won the right for a recount of votes previously deemed invalid. On Sunday, Ali Ihsan Yavuz, an AKP deputy chairman, said the party would appeal to the country’s top election authority for a total recount of votes in Istanbul’s 38 districts, not just of ballots that were canceled.

The party made the move once the opposition candidate’s lead narrowed to 16,380 votes after about 80 percent of the invalidated ballots were reassessed in the partial recount.

The opposition Republican People’s Party said it looks increasingly improbable that the invalidated ballots will swing the result in favor of the AKP.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition candidate, urged the AKP to concede. “I understand that it is not easy to lose [Istanbul] after ruling it for 25 years, but this is what democracy is about,” he said.

— Associated Press


Fighting in northwest strains truce, kills 13

Government forces and insurgents exchanged a barrage of rockets Sunday in northwest Syria that killed at least 13 people and hit a government-run hospital, activists and government media reported.

The violence strained a fragile months-old truce negotiated between Russia and Turkey that averted a government offensive on Idlib province and surrounding areas, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

Insurgent shelling killed a rescue worker and four others, according to the head of the hospital that was hit in government-held Massyaf in Hama province. Hospitals and civilian infrastructure have often come under fire over the course of the eight-year civil war.

Opposition-allied first responders said government shelling killed at least eight people, including one child, in the towns of Saraqeb and Nairab in neighboring Idlib. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at nine.

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which supports opposition factions, negotiated the truce in September. It set up a demilitarized zone on the edge of the rebel-held enclave that was to be cleared of militants.

Since the deal, al-Qaeda-linked militants have expanded their presence in the enclave, and the government has kept up limited military pressure.

— Associated Press


India restricts travel on pivotal highway

Authorities in India’s portion of disputed Kashmir started enforcing a ban Sunday on the movement of civilian vehicles on a key highway to keep it open exclusively for military and paramilitary convoys two days a week.

India’s government issued the order last week, reserving a 170-mile stretch of the highway for the movement of security vehicles on Sundays and Wednesdays until the end of May.

The order follows the Feb. 14 suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy that killed 40 soldiers and brought archrivals India and Pakistan, both of which lay claim to Kashmir, to the brink of war.

The highway is the only one linking the Kashmir Valley in the Himalayas to the Indian plains.

Authorities said there would be exceptions to the order, and people needing medical care, students and government workers, among others, would be permitted to travel on the highway after security verification.

— Associated Press

13 reported killed in blast in Yemeni capital: An explosion at a warehouse in Yemen's rebel-held capital killed at least 13 people, including seven children, and wounded more than 100, medical officials said. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who seized the capital of Sanaa in 2014, said the Saudi-led coalition allied with the government had targeted the warehouse. The coalition denied conducting strikes in the area.

— From news services