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Syrian rebels issue demands for captive UN troops

Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) -- Al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels holding 45 Fijian peacekeepers hostage have issued a set of demands for their release, including the extremist group's removal from a U.N. terrorist list and compensation for the killing of three of its fighters in a shootout with international troops, an official said Tuesday.

The Nusra Front seized the Fijians on Thursday in the Golan Heights, where a 1,200-strong U.N. force monitors the buffer zone between Syria and Israel. The rebels also surrounded two Filipino units, but those U.N. troops escaped over the weekend.

Speaking in the Fijian capital of Suva, military commander Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the Nusra Front has made three demands for the peacekeepers' release: to be taken off the U.N. terrorist list; the delivery of humanitarian aid to parts of the Syrian capital of Damascus; and payment for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with U.N. officers.

Tikoitoga did not say whether the rebels' demands would be seriously considered. He said the U.N. had sent hostage negotiators to Syria to take over discussions from military leaders.

"Negotiations have moved up to another level with the professional negotiators now in place," he said.

Tikoitoga also released the names of the 45 detained soldiers, who he said are led by Captain Savenaca Siwatibau Rabuka. He asked Fiji's community and church leaders to help look after the families of the captive troops and asked the public to also offer support.

"I appeal to all Fijians that while we pray for our soldiers in Syria that we be sensitive to the families," he said, adding "the U.N. has assured us they will use all of their available resources for the safe return of our soldiers."

Syrian rebels, including Nusra Front militants, seized a border crossing with Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Wednesday. The area has been engulfed in heavy fighting between the opposition fighters and President Bashar Assad's forces since then.

In Manila, Philippines, military chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the 40 Filipino peacekeepers who escaped had not accepted a rebel demand that they give up their firearms and surrender because that would have put the troops in grave danger.

Catapang said the rebel demands for the Fijians' release showed their true nature.

"We don't negotiate with terrorists," he said. "We have machine guns and crew-served weapons so if we give them our weapons, this will help create an international problem."

The Nusra Front, in a statement posted online Sunday, accused the U.N. of doing nothing to help the Syrian people since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. It said it seized the Fijians in retaliation for the U.N.'s ignoring "the daily shedding of the Muslims' blood in Syria."

More in the news:
Ukraine: Russian forces in major rebel cities
More than 30 teens escape from detention center
Group accuses extremists of war crimes in Iraq
Clashes between Islamists, rivals in Libya kill 31
Pro-Russian rebels lower demands in peace talks

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aljoramaggio September 02 2014 at 10:38 AM

Al Nusra - these terrorist groups are like roaches - morphing from one name to another - but all with a common goal - an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East, and then World Expansion.

The UN has to do more. Forget the Geneva Conventions - effective only between Nations that fight in uniform and respect the outline of those rules.

This is an unconventional warfare, with fighters who think nothing of torturing, beheading, crucifying and shooting non-believers.

Political Correctness will be the downfall of the civilized world.

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3 replies
Steve September 02 2014 at 10:33 AM

Um, did the authors not get the message? The rebranded name for Al Qaida is ISIS. This is the second Obama adm rebranding. First they morphed in to "freedom fighters", when Obama aided and armed them. Come on folks, they are driving our vehicles and using our arms- they didn't just find that sitting around in the desert, it all came from America under Obama.

Flag Reply +21 rate up
4 replies
dhrector September 02 2014 at 10:56 AM

Rule #1 "You cannot deal with terrorists."
Rule #2 "If you have any questions about dealing with terrorists see Rule #1".

Flag Reply +18 rate up
bonecracr September 02 2014 at 10:36 AM

The corrupt UN couldn't wait to bash Israel over its plight against the Hamas and call them war criminals for defending themselves. When the UN peacekeeping force escaped from Hamas clutch they went immediately to Israel for help.

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aristars September 02 2014 at 11:10 AM

This strategy of supporting rebels against Assad has failed! stop it, and just support Assad in his fight! it's stupid strategy to worry about Assad dictatorship and ignore the the big picture; savages have been taking lands ,for now, from Iraq and Syria to establish Calihpha!! right nor Assad's dicatarship must not be of any concern!!!

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1 reply
SRJimVal2 aristars September 02 2014 at 4:20 PM

well said

Flag Reply 0 rate up
alaincleancpts September 02 2014 at 10:37 AM

don t touch my fidjis brothers from the south pacific island I AM FROM NEW CALEDONIA ..you are NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF ******** ..let them go home

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1 reply
SRJimVal2 alaincleancpts September 02 2014 at 4:21 PM

Right On!!!

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golffrdlrs September 02 2014 at 11:07 AM

As long as we have had religion we have had this. As long as we continue to have religion we will continue to have this.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
5 replies
aristars September 02 2014 at 11:21 AM

rebels? no, they are terrorists! and why in the hell the UN has not trained, and armed it's peace keeprs to defend themselves? it looks like they were sitting ducks!

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1 reply
doketx aristars September 02 2014 at 11:49 AM

If anything happens to them, the worthless U.N. did it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
airamrka September 02 2014 at 11:22 AM

Time for the UN to step up to the plate and send in fighting forces to free the captives. And, yes I am fine with US troops being included.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Bob September 02 2014 at 10:43 AM

Anytime the UN sends this many people to a foreign Country to help, there should be a way to keep track of their location. A tiny chip or some other means. It would aid rescue attempts.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
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