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No names

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Sunday, August 31, 2014

THE Republic of Fiji Military Forces will not release the names of Fijian soldiers being held hostage by Syrian rebels because of the sensitivity of the issue.

RFMF Commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga however revealed in a press briefing yesterday they had contacted the family members of those affected.

He said the United Nations was continuing negotiations with rebel group, Al-Nusra an affiliate of the al- Qaeda, which has confirmed they are holding the Fijian troops.

"This morning (yesterday) at 5am I just got off the phone with the UNDOF negotiations team who just completed a round of negotiation by phone with the leader of the Al-Nusra group — an off-shoot of al- Qaeda — the group now responsible for holding the Fijian troops," Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said. "They confirmed that our men are safe and they are all well.

"The CO and the negotiations team is now unsure of the location of our troops."

He said it was initially thought the soldiers were still at position 27 but this did not seem to be the case after later negotiations.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said according to the leader of the Al- Nusra group, they had been moved to a location out of the range of any security forces (Syrian security forces).

"So their whereabouts at this stage, unfortunately, I cannot confirm and nor can the UNDOF (UN Disengagement Observer Force) team.

"The remaining troops for the Fijian contingent remain on high alert and they are very concerned about their missing comrades.

"This morning was the first breakthrough that this group has finally come forward and said that they were the group holding our troops, this is the first round of negotiations, I am sure sooner or later they will provide a demand to the UN but at this stage we can wait and see what happens in the next few days."

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga added in circumstances like, this they have some UN negotiators to provide professional negotiators as required by the situation.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga added Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama had made phone calls to all diplomatic missions to "put pressure on the situation".

"I think from the RFMF perspective this is the first time it has happened to us, we'll continue to look at our operating procedures, we will not shy away from our responsibility as international peacekeepers.

"We understand what the UN is trying to do in the region and we understand our role as good global citizens. I am very hopeful that we will get our soldiers back in time, judging from past experiences where all UN hostages have been returned in good health."








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