Syrian rebels raid Shiite village
BEIRUT — Syrian rebels, including Sunni extremists, stormed a village and battled pro-regime militiamen, killing more than 60 Shiite fighters and civilians in an attack steeped in the sectarian hatreds that increasingly characterize the civil war, activists said Wednesday.
In the raid, which comes at a time when the West is worried that extremists are increasingly joining the rebellion, the victorious fighters raised black Sunni Islamist flags over the eastern village of Hatla. In amateur videos, the fighters — some wearing al-Qaida-style headbands — vented anti-Shiite slurs and fired in the air.
“The homes of the infidel Shiites were burned,” the voice behind the camera in one video shouted as smoke rose in the background from several houses.
In another video, the fighters pulled blankets off corpses to show them off, one with a wound to the head. A gunman talking to the camera gloated, saying, “This is your end, dogs.” The videos appeared genuine and conformed with other Associated Press reporting on the events depicted.
The attack Tuesday on Hatla, in Syria’s Deir el-Zour region near Iraq, underlined the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict.
Massive thunderstorms pelt Midwest
CHICAGO — A massive line of storms packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds began rolling through the Midwest Wednesday evening and could affect more than one in five Americans from Iowa to Maryland before subsiding.
In the small town of Belmond, Iowa, about 90 miles north of Des Moines, Duwayne Abel, owner of Cattleman’s Steaks & Provisions restaurant, said a tornado swooped through his business’ parking lot and demolished part of the building. No one was in the restaurant at the time.
“I was, oh, eight miles west of town and I looked toward town and I could see a funnel cloud, having no idea it was exactly where our restaurant was,” Abel said. His wife and an employee were able to get out of the restaurant and sought shelter in a basement.
Other small tornadoes were also reported in other parts of Iowa and in Illinois. More than 1,200 customers in northern Iowa have lost power.
In addition to tornadoes, lightning and large hail, meteorologists were warning about the possibility of a weather event called a derecho which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. The storms are also likely to cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. Flash flooding was also a concern.
Wildfire burning out of control in Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A wildfire fueled by hot temperatures, gusty winds and thick, bone-dry forests has destroyed 92 homes, damaged five more and prompted more than 7,000 residents northeast of Colorado Springs to flee, sheriff’s official said Wednesday.
A separate Colorado wildfire to the south led to the evacuation of about 250 residents and nearly 1,000 inmates at medium-security prison, while to the north another fire burned in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting a lightning-sparked fires.
Crews were so busy battling blazes across the West that the U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday it is mobilizing a pair of Defense Department cargo planes to help — a step taken only when all of the Forest Service’s contracted tankers are in use.
The fire near Colorado Springs, one of several that broke out Tuesday along Colorado’s Front Range, has prompted evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices to between 9,000 and 9,500 people and about 3,500 homes and businesses, sheriff’s officials said.
By wire sources