UN: Syrian rebels free 45 Fijian peacekeepers

BEIRUT // Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels on Thursday released all 45 Fijian peacekeepers they had held captive for two weeks, the United Nations said.

Fighters from Jabhat Al Nusra captured the Fijian troops late last month in the Golan Heights, where a 1,200-strong UN force patrols the buffer zone between Syria and Israel.

The area along the frontier has been engulfed in heavy clashes since then between the rebels and the Syrian military.

“We can confirm they have been released,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. He said they were freed at the Quneitra crossing point in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

All Fijian troops “are in good condition” and will be taken for a quick medical assessment.

The Fijian hostages were captured on August 28, a day after rebels seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing from president Bashar Al Assad’s troops.

The same day the Fijians were taken captive, nearly 80 Filipino peacekeepers were trapped at two UN encampments, surrounded by rebel fighters who demanded they surrender.

The Filipinos refused, and both groups of Philippine troops eventually escaped – one busting out with the help of Irish colleagues who came to rescue them, and the other by slipping away under the cover of darkness.

* Associated Press

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