2 Sep 2014

Capture of Fiji troops 'unprecedented', says academic

3:27 pm on 2 September 2014

A New Zealand-based professor says 45 Fijian peacekeepers held by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights are being used as bargainning chips in what he says is an unprecedented event.

The troops were serving as part of a United Nations observer force in the demilitarised zone between Syria and Israel when they were captured by al-Nusra last Thursday.

Al-Nusra has since made three demands for their release: removal from the UN terrorist list, humanitarian aid, and compensation for three rebels who died in a shootout with UN officers.

Auckland University's Professor Stephen Hoadley says such a capture of peacekeepers has never happened before, and there's no real operational plan or response to this sort of circumstance.

"This event and the scale and audacity of it is without precedent in UN peacekeeping history. Fiji can't really do anything, the al-Nusra obviously has its eye on a wider political goal."

Stephen Hoadley of Auckland University

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Photo: AFP