Four UN peacekeepers abducted on Golan Heights

United Nations, May 7 (IANS) Four UN peacekeepers, all from the Philippines, were abducted on the Golan Heights Tuesday by an armed group believed to be the same one to have abducted 21 Filipino peacekeepers two months ago, the United Nations said.

The abduction took place “near Position 86”, a UN spokeswoman told Xinhua. “Efforts to secure their release are underway.”

The is the second abduction of UN peacekeepers on the Golan Heights over the past two months. In March, 21 Filipino peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were abducted but later released.

UNDOF, deployed in the Golan Heights since 1974, has about 1, 000 troops and civilian staff, who are from such countries as Austria, India, the Philippines, Morocco and Moldova.

“We can confirm that four peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained today by an unidentified armed group while they were patrolling in the area of separation close to Position 86, near Al Jamla,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said later at a daily news briefing here.

“The four are from the Philippine battalion. Efforts are underway to secure their release.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “strongly condemns the detention” and calls for their immediate release, Nesirky said.

“The Secretary-General reminds all actors in Syria that UNDOF is mandated to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria,” the spokesman said. “The secretary- general calls on all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and safety and security.”

“We can confirm that the group that has taken responsibility calls itself the Brigades of Yarmouk,” the spokesman said. “This is the same group responsible for the last incident of this nature.”

“We have limited details at this stage and of course in the interest of the safety of the peacekeepers, above all, we have to limit what we are saying publicly at the moment,” said the spokesman.

“Our primary concern is for the safety and security of the peacekeepers. Certainly that is what the focus is on,” Nesirky said.

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