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Iraqi PM announces end of war against ISIS in his country

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi said his forces had regained control of Syrian border
Squadrons of Iraqi he..

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  • Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi said his forces had regained control of Syrian border
  • Squadrons of Iraqi helicopters flew over Baghdad carrying Iraqi flags at noon
  • It comes two days after the Russian military announced the defeat of militants in neighbouring Syria where Moscow is backing Syrian government forces

By Sophie Inge For Mailonline

Published: 06:21 EST, 9 December 2017 | Updated: 16:16 EST, 9 December 2017

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory.

The announcement comes two days after the Russian military announced the defeat of the militants in neighbouring Syria, where Moscow is backing Syrian government forces.

The Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Theresa May has congratulated Mr al-Abadi but warned the extremist group are 'not yet defeated'.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory 

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory

Several squadrons of Iraqi helicopters flew over Baghdad carrying Iraqi flags at noon, in an apparent rehearsal for a victory parade that Iraq is planning to hold in the coming days.

'Commander-in-Chief @HaiderAlAbadi announces that Iraq's armed forces have secured the western desert & the entire Iraq Syria border, says this marks the end of the war against Daesh terrorists who have been completely defeated and evicted from Iraq,' the federal government's official account tweeted.

In a separate tweet later, Abadi said: 'Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border. We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.'

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Iraq's fightback was launched with the backing of an air campaign waged by a US-led coalition, recapturing town after town from the clutches of the jihadistsIraq's fightback was launched with the backing of an air campaign waged by a US-led coalition, recapturing town after town from the clutches of the jihadists

Iraq's fightback was launched with the backing of an air campaign waged by a US-led coalition, recapturing town after town from the clutches of the jihadists

Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, fell in July after a gruelling nine-month campaign backed by a U.S.-led coalition that saw much of the northern Iraqi city destroyedMosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, fell in July after a gruelling nine-month campaign backed by a U.S.-led coalition that saw much of the northern Iraqi city destroyed

Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, fell in July after a gruelling nine-month campaign backed by a U.S.-led coalition that saw much of the northern Iraqi city destroyed

The U.S.-led coalition that has been supporting the Iraqi forces against Islamic State welcomed the news in a tweet.

'The Coalition congratulate the people of Iraq on their significant victory against #Daesh. We stand by them as they set the conditions for a secure and prosperous #futureiraq,' said the tweet.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson praised Iraqi achievements but said Islamic State remained a threat.

'The fight though isn't over, as the group continue to pose a threat from across the Syrian border.

'They can plan and inspire terrorist attacks, which rally their branches worldwide and continue to inspire others at home and abroad to do us harm.

'We must continue to support the government of Iraq to ensure their long term security, the lives of the Iraqi and Syrian people, regional stability, and ultimately the security of our own country.'

Mosul, the group's de facto capital in Iraq, fell in July after a gruelling nine-month campaign backed by a U.S.-led coalition that saw much of the northern Iraqi city destroyed.

Islamic State's Syrian capital Raqqa also fell to a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led coalition in September.

The forces fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria now expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare, a tactic the militants have already shown themselves capable of.

The war has had a devastating impact on the areas previously controlled by the militants. About 3.2 million people remain displaced, a U.N. statement said on Saturday.

Suspected Islamic State members sit inside a small room in a prison south of MosulSuspected Islamic State members sit inside a small room in a prison south of Mosul

Suspected Islamic State members sit inside a small room in a prison south of Mosul

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in 2014 declared in Mosul the founding of a new Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, released an audio recording on Sept. 28 that indicated he was alive, after several reports he had been killed. He urged his followers to keep up the fight despite setbacks.

Baghdadi is believed to be hiding in the stretch of desert in the border area.

His followers imposed a reign of terror on the populations they controlled, alienating even many of those Sunni Muslims who had supported the group as allies against the heavy-handed rule of the Shi'ite majority-led government of the time.

The militants took thousands of women from the Yazidi minority, which lives in a mountain west of Mosul, as sex slaves and killed the men.

Driven from its two de facto capitals, Islamic State was progressively squeezed this year into an ever-shrinking pocket of desert, straddling the frontier between the two countries, by enemies that include regional states and global powers.

In Iraq, the group confronted mainly U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Iranian-trained Shi'ite paramilitaries known as Popular Mobilisation.

In his speech to the Arab media conference, Abadi said 'the victories were achieved thanks to our unity', a reference to the contribution of different communities, including Sunni tribal fighters.

The Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in BaghdadThe Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in Baghdad

The Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in Baghdad

However, Iraq faces a fresh internal conflict after it retaliated economically and militarily against the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for holding a referendum on Kurdish independence despite Baghdad's opposition.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she saw the situation on the ground first hand during a visit to Iraq last week, added: 'Daesh no longer hold significant territory in Iraq or Syria. I pay tribute to the Iraqi security forces for their courage and sacrifice.

'I am proud that the UK, as a leading member of the global coalition, has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraq.

'The UK, as a coalition member, has played a leading role in supporting the Iraqi security forces, including the armed forces and the Peshmerga, in the fight against Daesh. UK aircraft have launched over 1,350 air strikes in Iraq and have trained over 60,000 members of the Iraqi security forces.

'UK aid provides a vital lifeline to millions of Iraqis with emergency food, shelter, medical care and clean water. We are now supporting the government of Iraq to lay the foundations for an economy that meets the aspirations of all Iraqis.

'During my visit, I announced that the UK will invest £30 million in stabilisation support, £20 million in humanitarian assistance and £10 million to support counter-terrorist capacity building in Iraq.'

Iraq faces a fresh internal conflict after it retaliated economically and militarily against the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for holding a referendum on Kurdish independence despite Baghdad's opposition. Pictured: Militiamen watch Prime Minister al-Abadi's speech Iraq faces a fresh internal conflict after it retaliated economically and militarily against the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for holding a referendum on Kurdish independence despite Baghdad's opposition. Pictured: Militiamen watch Prime Minister al-Abadi's speech 

Iraq faces a fresh internal conflict after it retaliated economically and militarily against the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for holding a referendum on Kurdish independence despite Baghdad's opposition. Pictured: Militiamen watch Prime Minister al-Abadi's speech

The United States is also congratulating Iraq following the that the war is over.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the U.S. offers 'sincere congratulations to the Iraqi people and to the brave Iraqi Security Forces, many of whom lost their lives heroically fighting ISIS,' in an official statement released Saturday.

The statement adds 'the United States joins the Government of Iraq in stressing that Iraq's liberation does not mean the fight against terrorism, and even against ISIS, in Iraq is over.'

ISIS is an alternative acronym for IS.

Iraqi and coalition officials have stressed that despite the declaration of military victories against the extremists, Iraq continues to be faced with significant security threats.

The Islamic State group has repeatedly returned to their insurgent roots following territorial defeats, targeting Iraqi civilians and infrastructure far from frontline fighting.

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Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative

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In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.

The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.

But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.

So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?

‘Just paperwork’

Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.

Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.

The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.

Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.

Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.

Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.

Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.

It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.

“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”

But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.

Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.

It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.

Critics push for investigation

Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.

But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.

And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.

Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.

Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.

“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.

“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”

The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.

And she says the same transparency is needed here.

The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them

The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.

“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.

“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”

PM defends governor-general

Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.

“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”

Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.

“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.

“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”

A role fit for purpose?

Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.

She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.

“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”

Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.

“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.

“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”

But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.

“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”

 

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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