UN Secretary General Demands Immediate Release Of Fiji Peacekeepers

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44 soldiers held hostage near Syrian border crossing

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Sept. 1, 2014) – The UN Secretary General Tupua Ban Ki-moon has demanded for the immediate release of the 44 Fijian Peacekeepers held hostage by a group of militants linked to al Qaeda.

The 44 soldiers have been held hostage since Thursday last week in a place near the Syrian region.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a Fijilive report 45 soldiers, not 44, are being detained. Their names can be found here.]

"I have called for the immediate release of the blue helmet soldiers," Tupua Ban Ki-moon told the media at the SIDS conference last night before departing Samoa for New Zealand.

He said he has also spoken with the Fijian Prime Minister and updated him on the situation.The soldiers were taken last Thursday and Tupua said UN is doing everything to assure the safety and quick release of the soldiers.

Background

The 44 peacekeepers from Fiji were forced to surrender their weapons and taken hostage near the Quneitra crossing, but 81 Filipino blue helmets "held their ground" and refused to disarm, the Filipino defense department said.

"This resulted in a stand-off which is still the prevailing situation at this time, as UN officials try to peacefully resolve the situation," said the statement from Manila.

Fiji army chief Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga said the captured peacekeepers were all safe, and asked people in the Pacific nation to pray that they are released unharmed.

"(The) men are safe and well even, though they are detained by armed rebels in the Golan region," he told reporters in the capital Suva.

Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed the crossing at Quneitra on Wednesday, sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.

Quneitra is the only crossing between the Syrian and the Israeli-controlled side of the strategic plateau.

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