BEIRUT

Top official killed by rebels; death mourned, celebrated

Syrian rebels on Thursday killed a top Syrian intelligence official blacklisted by the United States and European Union in an ambush of his convoy as it passed through an area where Syrian army forces have been battling al-Qaida-affiliated rebels for more than a year.

Maj. Gen. Jameh Jameh commanded military intelligence operations in restive Deir el Zour province, one of the most crucial army operations as the government of President Bashar Assad attempts to quell a nearly three-year-long civil war.

He was best known internationally as Syria’s top-ranking official in Beirut when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a February 2005 car bombing that many blame on Syria. News of his death sparked public demonstrations of mourning in areas loyal to Assad’s regime, and tremendous celebratory gunfire in some rebel-held areas.

SYDNEY

Teams looking for victims, damage in wake of wildfires

Authorities are looking for victims and assessing the damage from more than a hundred wildfires burning across Australia’s most populous state Friday. The fires killed one man, razed an unknown number of homes and forced the evacuations of hundreds of residents, officials said.

Firefighters were assisted by milder conditions Friday, said Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers. But 36 of more than 100 fires continued to burn out of control.

Rogers said assessment teams and police were moving into the destruction zones Friday morning in search of survivors and victims.

AMSTERDAM

Foes of ‘Black Pete’ tradition want festival permit revoked

The “Black Pete” tradition in the Netherlands is under fire from opponents who believe the figure is a racist caricature. They asked Amsterdam officials Thursday to revoke the permit for a popular children’s festival that includes the character.

The Dutch version of Santa Claus, portrayed as a white man, arrives to great fanfare on Nov. 5 accompanied by dozens of clownish servants called “Zwarte Pieten” – Black Petes. These are typically white people wearing black-face makeup with red lips and curly “Afro” wigs.

Festivities around the country last a month.

– From news service reports