Fiji Peacekeepers Freed by Militants

Peacekeepers from Fiji stationed in the Golan Heights were freed on Friday after being held captive for two weeks by militants affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The peacekeepers made emotional calls to their families then celebrated their freedom.

The troops had been released after Nursa Front had held them since August 28. The troops were part of a UN force of 1,200 that were stationed in the disputed Golan Heights buffer zone between Israel and Syria.

The prime minister of Fiji called the 45 troops heroes. Voreqe Bainmarama said the troops showed restraint and remained calm under extremely difficult circumstances. Due to their discipline, none of the peacekeepers was harmed or militants killed, added the prime minister.

Still, the troops’ capture raised many questions about both the Fijian troops’ preparedness and the future of the United Nations monitoring mission that has gone on for more than four decades in the Golan Heights.

The Fiji military said its troops had to surrender August 28 after consulting with commanders from the UN, due to their location and the firepower the militants possessed.

However, the troops only agreed to surrender after being given assurance from the Nusra Front that none of the soldiers would be harmed.

The Fijian troops said they did not hold any hostility toward troops from the Philippines who also had been surrounded by members of Nusra Front, but who would not surrender and then escaped later.

Fiji’s military said the troops from the Philippines made their choices in concurrence with the government of their country and that is something we respect and we did the same to save our people.

The chief of the Fiji military said the soldiers who were released would first be checked by doctors for their medical status and then go through psychological testing prior to a decision to be made about whether they would stay on duty there or return to Fiji.

The overall opinion and feeling thus far said the military chief is that the troops want to stay in the region.

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