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In brief: Quake kills scores, wrecks old churches

Loon, Philippines – The earthquake that killed at least 156 people in the central Philippines also took its toll on the region’s historical and religious legacy by heavily damaging a dozen or more churches, some centuries old.

As rescuers reached some of the hardest-hit areas and the death toll from Tuesday’s quake rose, images of the wrecked religious buildings resonated across a nation where 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.

The bell tower toppled from Cebu city’s 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child – a remnant of the Spanish colonial era and the country’s oldest church building – becoming a pile of rubble in the courtyard.

Other churches on the neighboring island of Bohol, epicenter of the quake and a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, were also damaged, some beyond repair.

Syrian rebel factions split from main group

Beirut – Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a local commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters. It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.

In the video, a rebel in military fatigues read a statement with about two dozen fighters standing behind him, some holding a banner with FSA. The rebel in the video said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad He named 66 groups that he said support his statement.

Dozens feared dead in airliner crash

Bangkok – A plane from Laos’ state-run airline crashed in bad weather in the Southeast Asian nation, apparently killing 49 people from 11 countries, the government said.

Laos’ government said it was dispatching rescuers to the scene of Wednesday’s crash, but the Australian government said it was told no survivors were expected.

The airline flies an ATR 72-600 twin-engine turboprop plane on the 290-mile route from the capital, Vientiane, to Pakse in the country’s south. The aircraft is configured with 68 to 74 seats.


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