Syria’s Islamist group releases U.N. peacekeepers in Golan

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Fijian U.N. peacekeepers released by al-Qaeda-linked group Nusra Front in Syria on Thursday, gesture from inside a vehicle as they arrive in Israeli-held territory on the Golan heights September 11, 2014. (Reuters)

ARA News 

On Thursday, Dozens of Fijian U.N. peacekeepers, released by al Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) in Syria, arrived in Israeli-held territory on the Golan Heights, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.

“We opened the border and they entered,” the Israeli military spokeswoman said, without giving numbers.

Some 45 Fijian soldiers were taken hostage two weeks ago when Islamist militant groups including al-Nusra attacked them in the volatile frontier area between Syria and Israel.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed their release and, according to a spokesman, demanded that all parties in the area respect the U.N. force’s “mandate, freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel”.

The leadership of al-Nusra Front initially said it held the peacekeepers because they were aiding soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Later, sources close to al-Nusra said it demanded the removal of the group from the West’s terrorist list.

On Wednesday, al-Nusra group posted a video on its Twitter and YouTube accounts in which the hostages said they expected to be freed soon.

A U.N. source earlier told Reuters the militants had insisted on such a video as a condition of the peacekeepers’ release.

“We are all safe and alive, and we thank Jabhat al-Nusra for keeping us safe and keeping us alive. I’d like to assure you that we have not been harmed in any way,” one hostage, who was not identified, said in the footage.

“We understand that with the limited resources that they have, they have provided the best for us and we truly appreciate it and we thank them. We are thankful that Jabhat al-Nusra has kept its word and that we will be going home.”

Agencies  

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