United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed on Thursday the release of 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers who were kidnapped by members of the Syrian jihadist rebel group Al-Nusra Front.
“The Secretary-General welcomes the release of the 45 United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) peacekeepers who had been forcibly taken on 28 August 2014 by armed elements from United Nations Position 27 and detained. He appreciates the efforts of all concerned to secure their safe release,” said a statement posted on the UN website.
“The Secretary-General emphasizes to all parties the impartiality of United Nations peacekeepers. UNDOF is on the ground to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria,” the statement added.
“The Secretary-General demands that all parties respect UNDOF’s mandate, freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel.”
Earlier Thursday it was reported that the 45 soldiers were scheduled to cross into Israel, from where they will be transported back home.
The report came not long after a video of the captives - apparently filmed two days earlier - was released, in which one of the Fijian soldiers announces their imminent release, and says all are alive and well.
The video followed false reports which claimed the soldiers were about to be released - reports which were later detracted by the Fijian army.
The UNDOF peacekeepers were abducted late August by Syrian rebels during a still-ongoing offensive against pro-regime forces in the Quneitra region, which borders Israel.
The Al-Nusra Front had said it would try the Fijian soldiers "under Islamic law" and issued a series of demands for their release, which reportedly included the release from prison of several prominent Al-Qaeda terrorists.