Syrian rebels treat captured Filipino soldiers as ‘guests’ – military spokesman
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday that Filipino soldiers belonging to the United Nations peacekeeping force who were seized by Syrian rebels were not considered prisoners by their captors but “guests who are being treated well.”
“They are being treated as guests, not as prisoners,” Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Jr., AFP spokesperson, said at a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo.
Burgos said the highest-ranking officer among the 21 soldiers being held — an Army major — had spoken to the commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Forces (UNDOF) and said that “they are being treated well.”
The UNDOF commander is negotiating with the Syrian rebels, Burgos said.
Burgos said that the rebels reportedly wanted a repositioning of the Syrian government troops in exchange for the release of the 21 UN peacekeepers.
Burgos said that sketchy reports reaching Manila showed that the Filipinos were seized at noon (around 6 p.m. in Manila) on Wednesday as they were transporting supplies.
Burgos said the UN peacekeepers had actually passed a first checkpoint of the Syrian rebels and were held briefly but were released right away.
“But on the second time that they were stopped by they rebels, they were no longer released. The keys of their vehicles are with the Syrian rebels,” Burgos said.
Burgos said all the 21 Filipino soldiers have been identified but the AFP would not release their names as their families have yet to be informed.