'Toxic gas dropped on Syrian town'
BEIRUT • A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said yesterday that a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter was shot down on Monday.
A spokesman for the Syria Civil Defence said 33 people, mostly women and children, were affected by the gas, which they suspect was chlorine, in Saraqeb, in rebel-held Idlib province.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the attack.
Mr Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons.
Thousands mourn slain French priest
ROUEN (France) • Thousands gathered at Rouen cathedral in northern France yesterday for the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest who was murdered by two militants last week.
The frail octogenarian became the latest victim of terror in France when two men stormed his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and slit his throat at the altar.
Along with churches across France, the 11th-century cathedral on Sunday opened its doors to Muslims wishing to show their solidarity after the grisly attack, with the visitors paying tribute to Father Hamel and denouncing radical Islam.
Pope appoints panel on female deacons
VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis has appointed a special commission to examine the role of female deacons in the Roman Catholic church, in a potentially historic opening on the possibility of women joining the clergy.
The commission of seven men and six women will focus on the history of women having played deacons' roles in the early years of the Church, the Vatican said yesterday.
US crash pilot had drink driving history
AUSTIN (Texas) • The pilot killed along with 15 other people in the crash of a hot air balloon in Texas last Saturday had numerous convictions for drink driving dating back to 1990 and was jailed in 2000 on a drug-related charge.
The balloon, flown by pilot and owner Alfred "Skip" Nichols, hit a power line, setting its basket on fire, and crashed south of the state capital, Austin.
A US safety official called on Monday for tighter oversight of the hot air balloon industry at a briefing on the crash.
Govt delegates quit Yemen peace talks
KUWAIT CITY • Yemen's government delegation has quit peace talks in Kuwait after Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies rejected a draft peace plan by the United Nations.
According to the government, the draft plan called for the rebels to withdraw from the capital, Sanaa, and two major cities, hand over heavy arms and return state institutions seized in September 2014.
But the rebels said that a national unity government must first be formed and a new consensus president appointed to oversee the transition.