In brief: Top Syrian military officer killed in fight with Islamic extremists
Beirut – One of Syria’s most powerful military officers was killed in fighting with al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists in an oil-rich eastern province largely controlled by the rebels, Syrian state-run television said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. Jameh Jameh was killed in the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, where he was the head of military intelligence, state-run TV said. The report did not say when or how Jameh was killed, only that he died “while he was carrying out his mission in defending Syria and its people.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Jameh was killed by a sniper bullet during clashes with rebels, including members of al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front.
Jameh’s cousin, Haitham Jameh, told Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that the general was killed when a bomb exploded as he led his troops in an operation in Deir el-Zour, site of more than a year of clashes between regime forces and rebel fighters, who control most of the province.
He was the most powerful Syrian officer to be killed since a July 2012 bomb attack on a Cabinet meeting in Damascus killed four top officials, including the defense minister and his deputy, who was President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law.
Museum head warns of limiting visitors
Vatican City – The head of the Vatican Museums warned Thursday he might be forced to limit the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel if its new air conditioning and air purification systems don’t significantly reduce “dangerous” pollution levels.
Antonio Paolucci told a conference that he was confident the new system, which is expected to be operational at the end of 2014, would curb the dust, humidity and carbon dioxide that are dulling and discoloring Michelangelo’s frescoed masterpiece.
But he warned: “If this project doesn’t work, I’ll be forced to impose a limited number (of visitors). But that would be a painful solution.”
Some 5.5 million people are expected to visit the Vatican Museums this year. During high season some 20,000 people a day enter the intimate Sistine Chapel, which was last restored in the 1990s. The numbers, which have increased three-fold in the past 30 years, mean a significant increase in the amount of humidity and dirt that are brought into the tiny space each day.