Al-Qaeda linked Syria rebels release Fijian peacekeepers

Al-Qaeda linked Syria rebels release Fijian peacekeepers
Members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force wave as a UN vehicle carrying Fijian peacekeepers kidnapped two weeks ago in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights by Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, ride past after their release on September 11, 2014. The peacekeepers are being taken in UN vehicles to a UN base near Quneitra in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

GOLAN HEIGHTS, Middle East - Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria on Thursday released a group of 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers they kidnapped two weeks ago in the Golan Heights, a UN spokesperson said.

The peacekeepers, who were snatched from Quneitra on the Syrian side of the strategic plateau on Aug. 28, were released unharmed and said to be in "good condition," the spokesperson said.

The Fijians were part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), tasked with monitoring a 1974 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights.

"Today at 2:30 p.m. local time, the 45 Fijian peacekeepers who had been detained were handed to UNDOF," the spokesperson said.

"All the 45 peacekeepers are in good condition," he added, saying they would undergo medical checkups.

Shortly afterwards, the peacekeepers crossed from Syrian territory into the Israeli-controlled sector, an Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP.

"We opened the gate for them, they are in Israel," she said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said they were being taken in UN vehicles to a UN base on the Israeli side.

But shortly after they returned to Syrian territory through a different crossing point, a military spokeswoman told AFP, without explaining why.

The UN spokesperson said on Twitter that they were headed to Camp Fawwar on the Syrian side of the border for medical treatment.

The Fijians were captured on Aug. 28 by fighters from the Al-Nusra Front after they seized control of the Quneitra crossing following a battle with troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The peacekeepers were forced to surrender their weapons and taken hostage.

A second group of 81 Filipinos, who were surrounded by rebel forces, held their ground and refused to lay down their weapons, later managing to escape.

Peacekeepers repeatedly targeted

Quneitra is the only formal crossing point between the Syrian and the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

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