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Philippine troops in Syria rescued

August 31, 2014 6:27 pm

Thirty-two Philippine peacekeepers trapped by rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights have been rescued, the UN says.

A UN spokesperson said the “situation on the ground is calm but tense”, without providing further details.

Another group of 40 peacekeepers escaped a seven-hour siege by rebels after returning fire in self-defence, said the head of the Philippines army.

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The rebels – said to be from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front – have taken 44 Fijian peacekeepers captive.

They have also seized a crossing point into the Israeli-occupied Golan.

“Everyone is in a safe position. We left our (old) position but we brought all our arms,” said Philippine Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The head of the Philippine armed forces, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, speaking Manila, said: “We may call it the greatest escape.”

The Fijian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) were detained on Wednesday near Quneitra, during fighting between rebels and government forces.

An online statement posted by the Nusra Front said the Fijians “are in a safe place, and they are in good health, and that we have given them what they need of food and treatment”.

It said the peacekeepers had been seized because the UN ignored “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria”.

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