Pacific Scoop

Qatar ‘paid $20 million ransom’ for Fijians’ release, claims Syrian opposition

Pacific Scoop’s Alistar Kata reports from Suva on the Fiji peacekeepers.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the PMC news desk

Syrian opposition forces claim Qatar had paid militants from the al-Nusra Front $20 million ransom for the return of 45 captured Fijian peacekeeper soldiers, reports the Israeli i24 News website

pacificfijielections logo 200wideThis came after Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that it had brokered the release of 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers “at the request of the government of Fiji.”

“The efforts of the State of Qatar led to the successful release of the Fijian soldiers… who had been held for two weeks,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The soldiers were released less than a week before Fiji on Wednesday faces its first general election since the 2006 military coup.

The reports of a ransom fly in the face of earlier statements from the UN that no concessions had been made to secure the peacekeepers’ release.

On Thursday an IDF spokesperson confirmed that the 45 Fijians captured by al-Nusra front rebels had been released and crossed into Israel.

i24News is an international 24-hour news and current affairs television channel based in Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv.

Although established without government finding, the website declared it “would battle prejudice against and ignorance about Israel with facts and ‘diversity’.”

Rebels in control
Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya network reported at the weekend that al-Qaeda-led rebels had seized most of the Syrian side of the armistice line with Israel on the Golan Heights.

Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and its allies launched a major offensive against government forces in Quneitra province last month, capturing the sole crossing point over the armistice line to the Israeli-occupied sector of the strategic plateau.

“The regime is on the retreat before the advancing rebels,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told the French news agency AFP.

“The regime has now lost control of about 80 percent of towns and villages in Quneitra province.”

The rebels seized the Fijian peacekeepers on the Golan Heights on August 28 and held them hostage until Thursday.

They are part of the 1200-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force, which monitors a 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan.

Israel seized 1200 square kilometers of the territory during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Syria has never relinquished its claim to the territory and its return was the subject of peace talks with Israel in the 1990s and again in 2008.

Any prospect of the talks’ resumption has been torpedoed by the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that erupted in March 2011 and swiftly escalated into a civil war that has claimed more than 191,000 lives.

Source: i24News

Fiji government comment