BEIRUT

Middle East

Fiji says captured peacekeepers moved from UN territory

A member of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) carries binoculars at an observation post in the Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Qunietra crossing August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

SUVA, Fiji: Fiji military officials confirmed Saturday they no longer know the whereabouts of 44 peacekeepers captured by Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.

"Their whereabouts at this stage, unfortunately, I cannot confirm," Brigadier Mosese Tikoitoga told reporters after speaking to the head of the UN team negotiating for their release.

"They confirmed that our men are safe and they are all well. (But) they have been moved to a location out of the bombardment range of any security forces or the Syrian security forces."

"It is out of the UN territory. But again it's the word of the group. We've got no verification what so ever, no communication but we're only relaying the message that was delivered to us by the negotiators."

The Fijians were captured on Wednesday when armed Syrian rebels linked to the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed a Golan Heights crossing.

Another group of 72 Philippine peacekeepers refused to surrender and remain locked down in two camps on the Syrian side of the border.

The soldiers are serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) stationed in a buffer zone to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel since 1974.

The UN has revised an earlier figure from 43 to 44 Fijians captured and from 75 to 72 Filipinos after checking leave records with the mission.

 

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