Ruling bloc wins upper house elections
TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition won a comfortable majority in the upper house of parliament in elections Sunday, giving it control of both chambers and a mandate to press ahead with difficult economic reforms.
The win is an endorsement of the Liberal Democratic Party's "Abenomics" program, which has helped spark a tentative economic recovery in Japan. It's also a vindication for Abe, who lost upper house elections in 2007 during his previous stint as prime minister.
Official results weren't expected until early today.
The victory also offers the hawkish Abe more leeway to advance his conservative policy goals, including revising the country's pacifist constitution and bolstering Japan's military, which could further strain ties with key neighbors China and South Korea, who are embroiled in territorial disputes with Japan.
Militant attacks on north Sinai city kill 5
El-ARISH - Coordinated day and nighttime attacks Sunday by emboldened militants in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula targeted different areas in the main city of el-Arish and a border town, killing one civilian and four security officers, according to officials.
The pace of attacks on the police and military in northern Sinai has intensified since the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi from power, but assaults have largely been confined to desolate desert areas of the region.
Sunday's assault was significant in that it struck in the heart of el-Arish and killed a 32-year-old man driving his car in the most populated city in northern Sinai, which is also its provincial capital. The city is home to about 150,000 people.
Mortar shells hit market, killing 20
Government troops fired mortar rounds that slammed into a main market in a town in northern Syria on Sunday, killing at least 20 civilians, activist groups said.
The mortar shells struck the town of Ariha, which is held mostly by opposition fighters, a few hours ahead of iftar, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees, two opposition groups tracking the violence in Syria, said at least 20 people were killed, including two children and two women. It was not immediately clear what triggered the shelling.
Also Sunday, state media said government forces killed nearly 50 rebels in an ambush near Damascus.
Separately, Kurdish rebels freed the local commander of an al-Qaida-linked group in a town near Syria's northern border with Turkey in return for 300 Kurdish civilians detained by the group, as part of an agreement to end rebel infighting that erupted a day earlier in the region.
Gunmen kidnap Iranian diplomat
SANAA - Gunmen on Sunday kidnapped an Iranian diplomat who was driving his car in the capital of Sanaa, a Yemeni official said. Iran condemned the abduction.
The official said armed men stopped the diplomat's car and forced him into their vehicle before speeding away. He did not disclose the diplomat's name or any further details, saying the incident is under investigation.
The official said traffic at the time of the kidnapping was light.
In Tehran, a Yemeni diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive a formal protest, Iranian state TV reported. It said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called his Yemeni counterpart.
Salehi condemned the kidnapping and called for serious action by Yemeni government to free the Iranian diplomat, the TV report said, without identifying him.
Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has demanded in the past that Iran's leadership stop meddling in his country, a warning repeated by Washington. Yemeni officials have seized weapons caches they say were exported from Iran and aimed at destabilizing their country.
Western leaders invited to inauguration
TEHRAN - Iran's foreign ministry says the Islamic Republic has sent invitations to all the world's leaders to attend the Aug. 4 inauguration of its new president.
Spokesman Abbas Ara-ghchi was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying Sunday that American and European leaders and officials were among those invited to the swearing-in of Hasan Rouhani.
Rouhani has pledged to follow a "path of moderation" and promised greater openness over the country's nuclear program, which has placed it at odds with the West.
Araghchi did not elaborate as to which individual leaders would be invited. Officials in Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize, would presumably not be included.
The Associated Press