A Canadian legal adviser to the UN peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights was released after eight months in captivity, the United Nations announced Thursday.
Carl Campeau was kidnapped in February — reportedly by Syrian rebels — while working for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.
According to Syrian state news agency SANA, he was kidnapped by “terrorists” — the government’s term for opposition supporters — in the Damascus suburb of Khan al-Sheik.
Campeau was stationed at the UNDOF base on the Syrian side of the demilitarized zone separating Israel and Syria until he went missing. Attempts by The Times of Israel to contact Campeau on his cell phone and at his office at the time were unsuccessful.
SANA said the Syrian Foreign Ministry handed him over to the UN resident representative in Syria. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Campeau is now with the United Nations and “initial indications are that he is in good health.”
The Canadian government said it is “thrilled” that Campeau was released.
“Our ambassador to Lebanon has already spoken with him and we are offering him whatever support he requires,” Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, a spokesman for Canada’s foreign affairs department, said in an email to The Associated Press.
UNDOF was established in 1974, following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and Syria has agitated to have the land returned.
Less than two weeks after Campeau’s disappearance, Syrian rebels near the village of Jamla on the Golan Heights captured a convoy of United Nations vehicles and kidnapped 21 Filipino UN employees.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned at the time of the kidnapping of escalating military activity along the Israeli-Syrian border as a result of the intensifying Syrian conflict, which has gone on for two years and cost more than 100,000 lives.
In December, Ban accused the Syrian government of serious violations of the 1974 separation agreement and called on both countries to halt firing across the cease-fire line. He also cited numerous clashes between Syrian security forces and opposition fighters in the disengagement zone.
In response, he said, UNDOF adopted a number of security measures.
On Thursday, Sky News Arabia said that a team of its reporters went missing in the contested city of Aleppo. The Abu Dhabi-based channel said it lost contact on Tuesday morning with reporter Ishak Moctar, a Mauritanian national, cameraman Samir Kassab, a Lebanese national, as well as their Syrian driver whose name is being withheld at his family’s request.