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FRANCE

Notre Dame celebrates first Mass since fire

PARIS — The archbishop wore a hard-hat helmet, burnt wood debris was still visible and only about 30 people were let inside, but Notre Dame Cathedral on Saturday held its first Mass since the devastating April 15th fire that ravaged its roof and toppled its masterpiece spire.

Exactly two months after the blaze engulfed the landmark Gothic building in the French capital, the service was celebrated by Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit in a chapel behind the choir, a place confirmed by construction experts as safe.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester said this week the cathedral remains in a “fragile” state, especially its vaulted ceiling, which is still at risk of collapsing.

For security reasons, only about 30 people — mainly priests, canons and church employees — were admitted inside the cathedral for the service, while Aupetit and others wore construction worker’s helmets. Some of the workers rebuilding the church were also invited.

Somalia

Several killed and hurt in explosions

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A pair of explosions rocked Somalia’s capital and left 11 people dead, the country’s police chief said Saturday, as the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility.

Another 25 people were wounded, Gen. Bashir Abdi Mohamed told reporters in Mogadishu. He said the first car bomb went off near a security checkpoint for the presidential palace and was responsible for nine deaths.

The second car bomb killed the driver and his accomplice near a checkpoint on the road to the heavily fortified airport, he said.

Al-Shabab, which often targets the capital, said the blasts were meant to strike the first line of security checkpoints for the airport and palace. The airport is home to a number of diplomatic offices. The palace is a frequent al-Shabab target.

Syria

Violence kills dozens of troops and civilians

BEIRUT — Government airstrikes, intense shelling and fighting on the ground in rebel-held areas in northwest Syria claimed the lives of dozens of people Saturday, Syrian opposition activists said.

Syrian state media reported later that an explosion was heard in a military area in Dummar, a northwestern suburb of the capital Damascus. Syrian state TV said the blast was the result of an explosion in an arms depot that triggered some fires in nearby brush.

State TV gave no further details about the cause of the blast or whether there were fatalities.

In northwest Syria, fighting intensified as government forces pressed their offensive toward Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country’s lengthy civil war.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense said at least 10 civilians were killed in Saturday’s airstrikes and shelling of rebel-held villages and towns.

The Observatory said Saturday’s fighting alone left 26 troops and pro-government gunmen dead along with eight militants.

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