Syrian al-Qaeda branch al-Nusra Front threatened to try 45 UN peacekeepers from Fiji abducted last week in the Golan Heights.
According to the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat,
the jihadist group said it would try the soldiers according to Sharia law.
The report added that there has been no progress in talks to release the Fijians.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council called on “countries with influence” to press the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents to release the peacekeepers.
A press statement approved by all 15 council members, after a briefing by UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, again demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the Fijian peacekeepers.
Heavy clashes have raged in the Golan Heights since Syrian rebels captured a border crossing between Syria and Israel near the abandoned town of Quneitra last Wednesday.
Ladsous told reporters the peacekeepers have shown “steadfastness and courage” and said the UN is working to obtain the swift and unconditional release of the Fijians.
“We are sparing no effort to obtain the release of the detained peacekeepers,” he said, but gave no details, stressing the importance of “discretion.”
Fiji commander Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said Tuesday that the Nusra Front has made three demands for the release of the peacekeepers: It wants to be taken off the UN terrorist list; it demands that humanitarian aid be delivered to parts of the Syrian capital of Damascus; and it calls for compensation for three of its fighters who, it claims, were killed in a shootout with UN officers.
The Nusra Front accused the UN of doing nothing to help the Syrian people since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. It said the Fijians were seized in retaliation for the UN’s ignoring “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria” and even colluding with Assad’s army “to facilitate its movement to strike the vulnerable Muslims” through a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.
UNDOF was established in May 1974 following intensified firing on the Israel-Syria border after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967, and Syria has campaigned for decades for return of the land. For nearly four decades, the UN monitors helped enforce a stable truce between Israel and Syria, but the Golan Heights has increasingly become a battlefield in the more than three-year-old Syrian conflict.
The mission currently has troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. A number of countries have withdrawn their peacekeepers due to the escalating violence.
AP contributed to this report.
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