Hours after the UN confirmed the safe return of 45 Fijian peackeepers Thursday, Qatari government officials said the emirate helped negotiate their release, the AFP reports.
The UN soldiers were captured two weeks ago by Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel group Nusra Front during clashes between the Syrian army and several rebel forces near the de facto Golan Heights border, sparking international outcry.
On Thursday the UN reported that the peacekeepers had safely crossed the border into Israel, where they were met by Filipino soldiers from the same UNDOF mission. In a statement, the UN press office said all 45 soldiers were in "good condition" and thanked "certain parties" that helped secure the operation, but did not further specify.
In its own statement, the Qatari government said humanitarian concerns spurred it to mobilize "all its means and diplomatic channels to save lives."
Last month, the Qatari government helped secure the release of American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was held by rebel groups in Syria for 22 months. Both come after fresh accusations by the international community that the oil-rich Gulf nation has been indirectly and directly funding, supported and armed Islamist groups across the nation, particularly in Syria. Recently, even being accused of helping to raise funds for Sunni extremists within the Islamic State.
The U.S.-ally is currently at odds with the U.A.E. in war-torn Libya, where Qatari-backed Islamist militias are battling groups of former Qaddafi fighters backed by the U.A.E. The New York Times also reports Qatar's previous support of an Islamist group in Benghazi that, while being known for having Western-friendly leaders, had fighters who later cut ties and formed the splinter group at least partially responsible for the death of American ambassador, J. Christpher Stevens, during the 2012 embassy attacks.
Many see Qatar's heightened involvement in international hostage release missions as a way to mend a tarnished reputation and distance itself from Islamist groups across the region.
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