The rebels were still holding hostage 44 Fijian peacekeepers, whom they disarmed before attacking the Filipino troops. The Filipino soldiers retreated to safe areas in two separate extractions, General Gregorio Catapang said.
The rebels were still holding hostage 44 Fijian peacekeepers, whom they disarmed before attacking the Filipino troops. The Filipino soldiers retreated to safe areas in two separate extractions, General Gregorio Catapang said. EPA / Armed Forces of the Philippines

44 Fijian peacekeepers kidnapped by Syrian rebels

THE Australian government has condemned the kidnapping of 44 Fijian peacekeepers by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, as a UN Security Council member, Australia demands the unconditional and immediate release of all detained UN peacekeepers.

"Fijian personnel have played an important role in UN peacekeeping operations over many years," she said.

"I have telephoned Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Kubuabola to express Australia's strong support, including our intelligence resources, for Fiji at this difficult time.

"I have assured them that Australia will use its position on the UN Security Council to maintain focus on this issue."

It is understood the peacekeepers have been held since last week when Syrian armed fighters, including some linked to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, stormed a Golan Heights crossing and forced them to surrender their weapons.

The rebels also surrounded 72 soldiers from the Philippines serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force which has been tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel since 1974 - APN Newsdesk.



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