JERUSALEM

Israeli plane shoots down drone off northern coast

Israel shot down a drone Thursday as it approached its northern coast from neighboring Lebanon, raising suspicions that the Hezbollah militant group was behind the infiltration attempt.

Hezbollah denied involvement, but the incident was likely to heighten Israeli concerns that the Shiite militant group is trying to take advantage of the unrest in neighboring Syria to strengthen its capabilities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he viewed the incident with “utmost gravity.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the unmanned aircraft was detected as it was flying over Lebanon and tracked as it approached Israeli airspace.

He said the military waited for the aircraft to enter Israeli airspace, confirmed it was “enemy,” and then an F-16 warplane shot it down about five miles off the northern port of Haifa.

BAGHDAD

Death toll climbs over 150 as Sunni unrest intensifies

Clashes spread to a key northern city and gunmen took over a town elsewhere in Iraq on Thursday, raising the death toll from three days of violence to more than 150 people as a wave of Sunni unrest intensified.

The turmoil is aggravating an already sour political situation between the Shiite-led government and Sunnis, who accuse Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government of neglect and trying to disenfranchise their Muslim sect.

Al-Maliki appeared on national television appealing for calm amid fears the country is facing a return to full-scale sectarian fighting more than a year after U.S. troops withdrew.

The violence came as Iraqi electoral officials announced preliminary results in local elections Saturday. With 87 percent of the ballots counted, al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc was on track to win the most votes in eight of the 12 provinces participating in the vote.

SANTIAGO, Chile

Police arrest four people accused of burning baby

Chilean police Thursday arrested four people accused of burning a baby alive in a ritual because the leader of the sect believed that the end of the world was near and that the child was the antichrist.

The 3-day-old baby was taken to a hill in the town of Colliguay near the Chilean port of Valparaiso on Nov. 21 and was thrown into a bonfire. The baby’s mother, 25-year-old Natalia Guerra, had allegedly approved the sacrifice and was among those arrested.

“The baby was naked. They strapped tape around her mouth to keep her from screaming. Then they placed her on a board. After calling on the spirits they threw her on the bonfire alive,” said Miguel Ampuero, of the Police investigative Unit, Chile’s equivalent of the FBI.

Authorities said the 12-member sect was formed in 2005 and was led by Ramon Gustavo Castillo Gaete, 36, who remains at large.

“Everyone in this sect was a professional,” Ampuero said. “We have someone who was a veterinarian and who worked as a flight attendant, we have a filmmaker, a draftsman. Everyone has a university degree. “

Police said Castillo Gaete, the ringleader, was last seen traveling to Peru to buy ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew plant that he used to control the members of the rite.

LONDON

School close to Heathrow protects students’ hearing

A school close to London’s Heathrow Airport has found a novel way to protect its young students from the roar of planes taking off and landing.

The school has installed a series of sound-canceling adobe domes outdoors so that its students, ages 3 to 7, can enjoy playtime and lessons outside without fearing damage to their ears.

The domes, constructed from coiled bags of earth, were originally designed for earthquake and emergency zones, but they’ve proven popular among the schoolchildren.

Hounslow Heath Infant and Nursery School head teacher Kathryn Harper-Quinn said Thursday that installing the domes has encouraged more outdoor activities at the school.

WASHINGTON

FDA detains cucumbers imported from Mexico

The Food and Drug Administration is detaining imports of cucumbers from a Mexican company after they were linked to salmonella illnesses in 18 states.

The FDA placed the restrictions against Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacan, Mexico. The alert means the United States won’t accept the imports unless the company can show testing that proves the cucumbers are safe.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 73 people may have been sickened by the cucumbers.

The cucumbers were distributed by Tricar Sales, Inc. of Rio Rico, Arizona. California reported the most illnesses, with 28 people sickened.

– From news service reports