UN peacekeepers abducted by Syrian rebels safe and sound, videos suggest

The Associated Press reports: Several UN peacekeepers from the Philippines who were abducted by Syrian rebels said in videos posted online on Thursday that they were safe and sound, even as activists reported clashes and shelling in the area where UN troops were being held.

Opposition fighters detained 21 Filipino peacekeepers near the village of Jamlah in the Golan Heights on Wednesday. The abduction marked the first time since UN troops began patrolling an Israeli-Syrian armistice line in the Golan Heights nearly 40 years ago that they had encountered trouble, said Timor Goksel, a Beirut-based former UN official in the region.

One of the videos posted online shows three men dressed in camouflage and blue bulletproof vests marked “UN” and “Philippines”.

“We, the UN personnel here, are safe, and the Free Syrian Army are treating us good,” one of them says in English. “We cannot go home because the government of Assad do not stop the bombing. To our family, we hope to see you soon and we are OK here.”

The second video shows six peacekeepers sitting in a room. An officer, who identifies himself as a captain, says that as their convoy came under shelling on Wednesday, “we stopped and civilian people helped us for our safety and distributed us in different places to keep us safe”.

A spokesman for the Martyrs of Yarmouk Brigades, who are holding the peacekeepers, told Associated Press via Skype that all the 21 peacekeepers were ‘fine and in good health”.

“We consider them guests,” he added.

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