Fiji Retracts Claim UN Hostages to be Released

Social media posts claiming 45 captive UN troops about to be released denied: 'someone has misinterpreted.'

AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff ,

UN peacekeeper in Golan Heights (file)
UN peacekeeper in Golan Heights (file)
Flash 90

Fiji on Wednesday retracted a claim that 45 UN peacekeepers being held hostage in the Syrian Golan Heights by Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front rebels were about to be released, blaming a communications mix-up.

"I don't think so...someone has misinterpreted," government spokesman Dan Gavidi told AFP when asked if posts on official social media feeds on Wednesday morning trumpeting the impending release were correct.

Earlier the Ministry of Information said in a one-line statement on its official Facebook page "Fijian troops will soon be released. More details to follow."

The government later deleted the posts and released a statement saying negotiations with the rebels were continuing.

The peacekeepers, all Fijian nationals, were taken hostage two weeks ago when Al-Nusra rebels stormed the Golan Heights crossing leading into Israel from the Syrian side, as part of a campaign that has given them virtual control of the region and seen them expanding into Lebanon.

The UN sent a specialist negotiating team from New York to hold talks with the rebels, who moved the Fijians to an undisclosed location after capturing them.

When quizzed about Fiji's claims of a breakthrough, UN spokesman Stephan Dujarric said he had "nothing new to report on the Fijians."

Another UN official, who asked not to be named, said "we have nothing to report. It is a delicate situation and nobody was released."

The Fiji government statement said efforts to secure the peacekeepers' release were ongoing and talks on the issue had been "progressive." It added "we are confident that...this process will secure the safe release of the 45 peacekeeping troops."

Al-Nusra, for its part, has declared it would try the peacekeepers under Sharia Islamic law.

The Fijian military last week revealed the rebels were demanding the removal of the Al-Nusra Front from a UN terror blacklist and humanitarian aid for a town just outside Damascus that is an Al-Nusra stronghold.

Unconfirmed reports in Fiji's media said the hostage takers also wanted the release of Abu Mussab al-Suri, also known as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, an Al-Qaeda leader who was arrested in Pakistan in 2005 and is now being held by Syrian authorities.

The Fijians are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been stationed in the Golan Heights since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. That force includes 1,200 peacekeepers from the Philippines, Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands.




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