21 Filipino peacekeepers captured in Syria-A A +A
Thursday, March 7, 2013
UNITED NATIONS — Syrian rebels captured on Wednesday 21 United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, according to the UN.
A video posted online by activists showed a group of armed rebels standing around at least three white U.N. vehicles with the words United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) on them, allegedly in the village of Jamlah in Daraa province.
The video, circulated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the peacekeepers being held by the rebels are Filipinos.
The U.N. Security Council said it has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the peacekeepers.
Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, spokesman of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed Thursday morning that the captured soldiers were Filipinos, however, the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has yet to confirm the identities of the Filipinos.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current Security Council president, said talks are under way between U.N. officials from the peacekeeping force and the captors.
Churkin said the capture of the peacekeepers is "particularly unacceptable and bizarre," because the Undof peacekeepers are unarmed and their mission has nothing to do with Syria's internal conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the capture of the 21 peacekeepers, U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
A man identified as Abu Qaed al-Faleh, spokesman for the Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigades, announced the group is holding the peacekeepers until Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces withdraw from Jamlah.
"They will not be released until after Bashar Assad's forces withdraw from the village of Jamlah bordering Israel," the man said.
Churkin urged countries with influence on the Syrian opposition to use it to help free the peacekeepers. (AP)