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Syria says it shot down a US drone

Syrian state media says government forces have downed a US surveillance drone over the coastal province of Latakia. Damascus has mostly refrained from attacking coalition aircraft since the anti-IS strikes began.

The United States lost contact with an unarmed drone aircraft flying over Syria, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday evening, after Syrian news agency SANA reported the alleged shooting down of the aircraft.

"Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile US surveillance aircraft over north Latakia," SANA said in a breaking news alert, without providing further details.

Also on Tuesday, Syrian state television broadcast footage of the alleged wreckage, including a wheel and electronic parts.

First attack since the aerial campaign launch

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear whether the aircraft was shot down and that the incident was being investigated.

If the information concerning the drone is confirmed, it would be the first time Syrian military has attacked a United States aircraft since the American-led coalition launched airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria, in September.

Latakia is considered a bastion of Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, and a home to President's Assad ancestral village. The IS fighters have been largely absent from the coastal province, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. However, fighters of extremist al-Nusra Front, which is linked with al Qaeda, are active in the region.

Over 100 injured in 'poison gas attack'

Reports concerning the drone incident come on the same day as activists and Amnesty International accused the Assad regime of killing at least six people using chlorine gas. Activists in the village of Sarmin have also posted videos of a field hospital showing alleged victims holding gas masks over their faces and children crying in the background.

A paramedic told AFP news agency that first responders rushed to the scene unprepared.

"This is the first time we've experienced a poison gas attack," Motea Jalal said.

"We grabbed the masks we had. They are for fires, not for gas attacks, but that's what is available."

Jalal also said paramedics retrieved the wounded and tried to wash the chemicals from the bodies, adding that more than 100 people were in need of treatment.

dj/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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