All 45 detained Fijian peacekeepers released in Golan Heights

Updated: 2014-09-12 10:25


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All 45 detained Fijian peacekeepers released in Golan Heights

Fijian UN peacekeepers released by al-Qaeda-linked group Nusra Front in Syria on Thursday, gesture from inside a vehicle as they arrive in Israeli-held territory on the Golan heights September 11, 2014. The peacekeepers were taken hostage two weeks ago when several Islamist militant groups including Nusra attacked in the volatile frontier between Syria and Israel. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations said Thursday that all its 45 peacekeepers from Fiji, seized by Syrian rebels in Golan Heights two weeks ago, were released and "are in good condition."

The 45 peacekeepers were released at 14:30 on Thursday (local time) and handed to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) at a UN position in the Golan Heights, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in an emailed note to reporters here.

"All the 45 peacekeepers are in good condition and will proceed back to Camp Foar for medical assessment," he said.

The Fijian peacekeepers were captured by fighters from the Nusra Front, Syria's branch of the al-Qaeda, in the Golan Heights on Aug. 28.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council have both condemned the capture of UN peacekeepers and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

The Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda which seized the Fijian peacekeepers, described the action as retaliation for what it called the failure of the United Nations to help the people of Syria in that country's civil war, which is now three and a half years old and has left more than 190,000 people dead.

The Nusra Front confirmed it held the peacekeepers by releasing a statement, two days after the Fijians disappeared, that included a photo of them as a group as well as their identification cards.

The statement said they were being treated well and given food and medical care, but it did not specify any conditions for their release.

The Fijian troops are part of UNDOF, a 1,223-member peacekeeping operation that has monitored the demarcation line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since 1974.

India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines have also contributed troops to the operation.

Twenty-five Filipino peacekeepers serving with UNDOF were detained by armed elements in March and May of 2013. They were released safely shortly afterward.

In June, the UN Security Council extended UNDOF's mandate for another six months, until Dec 31, 2014.

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