In brief: Syrian rebels capture air base near capital
BEIRUT – Syrian rebels captured a helicopter base just outside Damascus on Sunday in what an activist called a “blow to the morale of the regime” near President Bashar Assad’s seat of power, while the bombardment of a village near the capital killed at least eight children.
Activists said the children were killed when Syrian warplanes bombed the village of Deir al-Asafir just outside Damascus.
The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said rebels seized control of the Marj al-Sultan base on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday morning. The rebels later withdrew from the base.
Rebels appear to be trying to take over air bases and destroy aircraft in order to prevent the regime from using them in attacks against opposition forces around the country.
Bomb kills five in attack on Shiites
ISLAMABAD – A bomb blast in northwest Pakistan killed five people and injured 70 others Sunday, provincial and local authorities said, the latest in a wave of attacks that have struck the country’s minority Shia Muslim community.
The attack in Dera Ismail Khan was the second to strike the city of 119,000 this weekend and the fourth in five days directed at Shia Muslims as they commemorate the anniversary of the seventh-century martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of Muhammad. A remote-controlled bomb planted in a shop exploded as a procession of Shia Muslims passed by, police said.
On Saturday in Dera Ismail Khan, seven people were killed and 26 others injured by a remote-controlled bomb buried under a pile of garbage that exploded while a Shia Muslim procession moved past.
No one had claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, though suspicion immediately focused on the Pakistani Taliban, the country’s homegrown insurgency. The group had previously said it was behind the wave of violence against Shia Muslims earlier in the week.
WASHINGTON – Authorities say a fire broke out at the State Department headquarters in Washington, seriously injuring three maintenance workers.
D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Lon Walls said the fire started at around 11 a.m. Saturday in the ductwork on the 7th floor. Workers were able to put out the fire before firefighters arrived, but not before three people had suffered burns.
Walls said one person suffered life-threatening injuries and two others had serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the fire began during routine maintenance to a mechanical area of the building.
Couple swept away trying to save son, dog
EUREKA, Calif. – A couple died and their 16-year-old son went missing after being swept into the sea in Northern California while trying to save their dog, authorities said Sunday.
The family was at Big Lagoon, a beach north of Eureka, Saturday afternoon when the dog chased after a thrown stick and got pulled into the ocean by eight- to ten-foot waves, said Dana Jones, a state Parks and Recreation district superintendent.
Jones said the boy went after the dog, prompting his father to go after them. She said the teenager was able to get out, but when he didn’t see his father, he and his mother went into the water looking for him.
“Both were dragged into the ocean,” Jones said.
The Times-Standard reports the couple’s daughter called police.
Rescuers eventually retrieved the mother’s body and the father’s body washed up.
The dog got out of the water on its own, Jones said.
Powerball jackpot reaches record
DES MOINES, Iowa – Lottery officials say nobody has won the Powerball jackpot and the top prize will now increase to about $425 million for the next drawing, the largest jackpot ever for the game.
Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said sales were strong over the holiday week for Saturday’s drawing, which was estimated at $325 million before the numbers were picked. That was the fourth-largest jackpot in the game’s history.
Neubauer said the jackpot could go even higher than the estimated $425 million because sales pick up in the days before record drawings.