War-hit Tamils vote for wider autonomy

Sri Lanka’s main ethnic Tamil party earned a convincing victory in the country’s northern provincial elections, according to results released Sunday, in what is seen as a resounding call for wider regional autonomy in areas ravaged by a quarter-century of civil war.

The Tamil National Alliance will form the first functioning provincial government in the northern Tamil heartland after securing 30 out of 38 seats in Saturday’s polls, Sri Lanka’s elections commission said. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coalition won the rest of the seats.

The win provides a platform for the Tamil National Alliance to campaign for an autonomous federal state, although the provincial council is largely a toothless body.

The Tamils have fought unsuccessfully for self-rule for six decades, at first through a peaceful struggle and then through the bloody civil war.

The elections were seen by the international community as a test of reconciliation between Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, who control the government and the military.

Rajapaksa called the elections after much international criticism that he delayed fulfilling wartime promises to share power with the Tamils.

— Associated Press

Union calls for rallies to topple government

Tunisia’s trade union body announced mass protests Sunday to force out the government, accusing the Islamist-led coalition of delaying crisis talks on the country’s political future.

The powerful UGTT union had been acting as a mediator between the government and the secularist opposition, but it said talks stalled Saturday because the ruling Ennahda party refused to announce its immediate resignation.

The union said it would stage protests across the country and then a huge rally in the capital to force the government out.

The UGTT has been pushing both sides to accept a proposal for three weeks of talks, after which Ennahda would hand over power to a caretaker administration, which would be in place until elections were held.

Tunisia, which triggered the wave of Arab Spring revolts with its ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, had been considered one of the more successful among the region’s fledgling democracies. But unrest broke out after the assassination of an opposition figure in July. The opposition accused Ennahda of tolerating Islamist militants and demanded that it step down.

— Reuters

Suicide bomber kills 16 at Sunni funeral

A suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt among Sunni mourners attending a funeral in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 16 people and wounding 35, officials said, in the latest episode of Iraq’s near-daily violence.

Police officials said the evening attack occurred inside a tent where the funeral was being held in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood.

Two other attacks in northern Iraq killed two police officers and wounded 37 people, the officials added.

The bloodshed came a day after a wave of attacks killed 104 people, most of them at a suicide attack during a Shiite funeral in Baghdad.

Violence has spiked in Iraq in the past few months. More than 4,000 people were killed from April to August, a level of carnage not seen since the country was on the brink of civil war in 2006-08.

Earlier Sunday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into a residential area in Kirkuk, wounding 35 people, a police official said. A roadside bomb in Mosul killed two soldiers and wounded two others, police said.

— Associated Press

Egypt set for rewrite of Morsi-era charter: Egypt is likely to completely rewrite the constitution adopted during Mohamed Morsi’s year in office, a spokesman for the committee amending it said Sunday, in a further push to reverse changes introduced under the now-deposed Islamist president. The 50-member panel, which includes two Islamists but no representative of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, was appointed by the interim government that was installed after Morsi’s ouster in July.

7 killed as Yemeni tribesmen battle al-Qaeda: Yemeni security officials said clashes between tribesmen and al-Qaeda fighters killed seven people and wounded eight from both sides on Sunday. The officials said militants opened fire on members of the el-Maely tribe in Obeida Valley in central Marib province, just east of the capital. The officials said three members of the tribe and four al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the clashes.

Britain charges 2 in Syria-related investigation: British police have charged two people with conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp in Syria and with the unlawful possession of five rounds of ammunition. The two, both British citizens, are set to make an appearance Monday at a London court.

— From news services