Pacific Scoop

Confusion over release of Fiji peacekeepers follows army chief’s claim

apj Mads 100914 Mosese Tikoitoga IMG_2730-425wide

Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga today, announcing the “imminent release” of Fijian soldiers in Syria. Photo: Mads Anneberg/Republika/PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Mads Anneberg in Suva

The United Nations and Fiji government have now contradicted claims by the military that the 45 captured Fijian UN peacekeepers being detained in Syria are soon to be released.

At a press conference today, Fiji’s military commander Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga said the Al-Nusra militants had agreed to release the soldiers who were captured in the Golan Heights last month.

Unprecedented, he said, the Islamist group was going to hand them over without conditions. He went on to say that it bared witness of the good relationship Fijian soldiers had built up with the Syrian population.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said he had received the message from the United Nations. But later on, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told The New York Times there was “nothing new to report” on the Fijians who were captured on August 28.

A spokesperson for the Fiji government, Dan Gavidi, also denounced the news when telling AFP that there had been a communications mix-up about the release.

“I don’t think so … someone has misinterpreted,” he said.

Adding to the confusion, the Jerusalem Post quoted a senior UN official confirming that the peacekeepers were likely to be released within days, though not without conditions.

Tweet removed
The Fiji government’s Twitter account posted this earlier in the morning said that the 45 were to be released “sometime this week”.

apj Mads 100914 twitter screenshot-300wide

The RFMF original tweet.

It was however soon deleted and this tweet later took its place:

apj Mads 100914 military twitterNEW

At this stage, a release does not seem to be verified by anyone. It is also not clear what led the military to say the soldiers were to be released.

Mads Anneberg is an Inclusive Journalism Initiative (IJI) programme student at AUT University. He is reporting on the Asia-Pacific journalism course. He is on internship at Repúblika Magazine where he is a Fiji elections reporter. 

Earlier story

Pacific Scoop’s Alistar Kata reports on the Suva press conference before the confusion. The RFMF has since retracted the statements by the military chief.