45 Peacekeepers Held Captive in Syria Are Freed
Qatar says it helped broker release
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 12, 2014 12:45 AM CDT
This image made from video posted on a militant social media account yesterday shows UN peacekeepers from Fiji, background, held captive by militants from the Nusra Front in Syria.   (AP Photo via militant social media account)
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(Newser) – Al-Qaeda-linked militants have released 45 Fijian peacekeepers captured two weeks ago in Syria, ending the UN's fourth crisis over abducted soldiers in the Golan Heights since March 2013. The Fijians were captured on the Syrian-controlled side of the contested buffer zone between Syria and Israel by fighters from the Nusra Front, who have been battling Syrian government forces in the area. The 1,200-strong UN force that has patrolled the zone since 1974 has increasingly been caught in the spillover from Syria's civil war.

A UN spokesman says "no demands were made and no concessions were made" to secure the release of the peacekeepers. "No ransom was paid," he says. Qatar, a chief backer of rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, says it played a role in the release. Two groups of Filipino peacekeepers were trapped at separate UN encampments the same day the Fijians were captured, surrounded by rebel fighters who demanded they surrender. They refused, and both groups eventually escaped—one busting out with the help of Irish colleagues, and the other by slipping away under the cover of darkness.