Syrian rebels issue demands for captive UN troops - Tucson News Now

Syrian rebels issue demands for captive UN troops

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Philippine Armed Forces Chief Gen. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Philippine Armed Forces Chief Gen.
(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Philippine Armed Forces Chief Gen. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez). Philippine Armed Forces Chief Gen.
(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner). U.N. soldiers observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner). U.N. soldiers observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner). An Israeli soldier observes Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner). An Israeli soldier observes Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mount Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • NationalMore>>

  • NY boat crash: Criminal case ends, lawsuits await

    NY boat crash: Criminal case ends, lawsuits await

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 2:21 AM EDT2014-09-16 06:21:13 GMT
    The criminal case stemming from a drunken boat ride on the Hudson River that took the lives of a bride-to-be and her fiancé's best man is ending. But the case may persist in civil courtrooms for years.
    The criminal case stemming from a boat ride on the Hudson River that took the lives of a bride-to-be and her fiancé's best man is ending. But the case may persist in civil courtrooms for years.
  • Mom charged in son's 1991 murder is due in court

    Mom charged in son's 1991 murder is due in court

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 2:01 AM EDT2014-09-16 06:01:31 GMT
    A Florida woman charged in the 1991 death of her 5-year-old son is scheduled to make her first appearance in a New Jersey courtroom.
    A Florida woman charged in the 1991 death of her 5-year-old son is scheduled to make her first appearance in a New Jersey courtroom.
  • Trump Plaza: 4th Atlantic City casino shutdown

    Trump Plaza: 4th Atlantic City casino shutdown

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 1:51 AM EDT2014-09-16 05:51:33 GMT
    When Trump Plaza opened on May 14, 1984, Donald Trump called it the finest building in Atlantic City, and possibly the nation.
    When Trump Plaza opened on May 14, 1984, Donald Trump called it the finest building in Atlantic City, and possibly the nation.
By RYAN LUCAS and NICK PERRY
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."

___

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed from Manila, Philippines.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by WorldNow