— The United Nations says four of its peacekeepers were abducted Tuesday by armed men in the Golan Heights. It is the second time in as many months that peacekeepers have been kidnapped in the Golan.
The U.N. says efforts are underway to secure the release of the four men, who are from the Philippines.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky says the group that has claimed responsibility for the abduction, the Brigades of Yarmouk, also abducted 21 Filipino peacekeepers in early March.
“This is the same group responsible for the last incident of this nature. We have limited details at this stage. And in the interest of the safety of the peacekeepers, above all, we have to limit what we are saying publicly at the moment,” Nesirky said.
The U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping says the men were detained while patrolling in what is known as the Area of Separation on the Syrian side near the southwestern town of Al Jamla.
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In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the abduction and called for the peacekeepers' immediate release.
About 1,000 lightly armed peacekeepers have patrolled a separation zone in the Golan Heights since 1974, monitoring a cease-fire between Israel and Syria.
The mostly quiet area has become more dangerous in recent months as the Syrian conflict grows, calling into question the mission's ability to operate.
In March, 21 peacekeepers were seized in the Golan by Syrian rebels and later released. There has also been shelling in the area, making it difficult and dangerous for the U.N. observers to carry out their mandate.