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Obama approves reconnaissance over Islamic State in Syria

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar Assad.

Defense officials said Monday evening that the Pentagon is sending in manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over Syria, using a combination of aircraft, including drones and possibly U-2 spy planes. Obama approved the flights over the weekend, a senior administration official said.

Administration officials said that the United States had no plans to notify the Assad government of the planned flights. Obama, who has repeatedly called for the ouster of Assad, is loath to be seen as aiding the Syrian government, even inadvertently.

As a result the Pentagon is drafting military options that would strike the militant Islamic State near the largely erased border between those two nations, as opposed to more deeply inside Syria. The administration is also moving to bolster U.S. support for the moderate Syrian rebels who view Assad as their main foe.

On Monday, Syria warned the U.S. that it needed to coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State or it would view them as a breach of its sovereignty and an “act of aggression.” But it signaled its readiness to work with the United States in a coordinated campaign against the militants.

The reconnaissance flights would not be the first time the United States has entered Syrian air space without seeking permission. In July, U.S. special operations forces carried out an unsuccessful rescue attempt for hostages held by the Islamic State, including journalist James Foley, whose death was revealed last week in a video.

Obama met Monday with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other advisers to discuss options, but the administration said Obama had not yet decided whether to order military action in Syria. Still, administration officials acknowledge that the sudden threat from the Islamic State to Americans — several of whom are still held by the militants in Syria — had complicated the calculus for the U.S. in a conflict Obama has largely avoided.

—Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

Liberian doctor treated with experimental drug dies from Ebola

A Liberian doctor with Ebola who was given ZMapp — the same experimental drug given to two infected Americans — has died, officials said Monday.

Dr. Abraham Borbor, deputy chief medical doctor at Liberia’s largest hospital, had received one of the few existing doses of the drug, made by a San Diego company, The Associated Press said, quoting Liberia’s information minister.

The two Americans who received ZMapp survived after treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. When the two were released last week, their doctors said they did not know whether the drug — a cocktail of mouse antibodies grown in tobacco plants — had helped them, had no effect or perhaps even slowed their recoveries.

A Spanish priest who received one of the first six doses also died, but that was attributed in part to his age, 75.

Also on Monday, it was confirmed that another Ebola outbreak is underway in a remote village in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A Congolese government laboratory said it was of a different strain and not related to the West African outbreak, which is almost 3,000 miles away.

The Congo outbreak is known to have killed 13 people. The country — formerly Zaire — has had six outbreaks since the disease was discovered there in 1976 in a village near the Ebola River.

More than 240 health care workers have fallen ill in this outbreak, the health organization said Monday, and half of them have died. In previous outbreaks, the organization said, deaths among medical workers have decreased rapidly once it is known that patients have Ebola and personal protection measures are taken.

As of last Friday’s WHO update, 2,615 people in four countries had been infected and 1,427 had died.

—Donald G. Mcneil Jr, The New York Times

At least 4 inmates are killed during bloody prison uprising in Br

RIO DE JANEIRO — Negotiators on Monday were still trying to end a bloody prison uprising in southern Brazil that has left at least four inmates dead at the hands of fellow prisoners, including two by beheading, the authorities said.

Although prison riots have become relatively frequent, the brutality of the rebellion at Cascavel, a city of about 300,000 in a farming belt of Paraná state, and dramatic photographs of masked prisoners dangling inmate hostages from the roof, underscored the bleak conditions often faced by jailers and jailed alike.

The latest rebellion erupted on Sunday morning over complaints by inmates over the quality of the food and accusations of physical abuse by guards. It lasted more than 30 hours, and involved clashes among factions inside the prison and a tense standoff with security forces.

Although the authorities announced an agreement had been reached with prisoners, one of the inmate leaders denied that in a radio interview.

Brazil’s prison population has more than quadrupled since the 1990s to about 550,000, largely as a result of an increase in narcotics incarcerations. Prison uprisings flare almost on a monthly basis as the authorities grapple with poor financing and a lack of training for guards overseeing the rising numbers of inmates.

The scenes of violence at the Cascavel prison suggest that the Brazilian authorities remain far from addressing structural problems in the country’s prisons. At one point during the uprising, prisoners used the decapitated head of one of the inmates to strike fear in one of the guards who had been taken hostage, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported.

—Simon Romero, The New York Times