UN peacekeeper taken hostage in Golan Heights
A UN peacekeeper from New Zealand was abducted late last night, only to be released unharmed five hours later
A United Nations peacekeeper was taken hostage in the Middle East earlier today.
The Army officer from the New Zealand Defence Force was reportedly abducted from an observation post in the Golan Heights, where UN peacekeepers have maintained a presence between Israel and Syria since 1974.
The abduction took place at around 1am local time and the officer is said to have been held for just over five hours. The unnamed individual has now been released unharmed and is back at their post in a United Nations facility. Their next of kin is being informed.
New Zealand's One News states that there are currently eight New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving as part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Middle East.
The personnel work as military observers and are based in Syria, Israel and Southern Lebanon, the Defence Force says.
Two of the personnel are based in the Golan Heights.
Each of the UNTSO outstations has a slightly different mission statement, but the Defence Force says they are there to ensure that peace agreements or cease fires are observed and to report any activities which violate these agreements or could threaten international peace and security in the region.
Details regarding the captors and their motives have not yet been released.
A New Zealand Army officer serving as a UN military observer was detained and released by armed men in Syria in December.
At the time, the Defence Force said the officer was conducting a regular patrol north of the border between Syria and Jordan to verify the ongoing ceasefire between Israel and Syria when his vehicle was stopped by unidentified armed men.
He was detained with his Austrian colleague for about three hours before being released unharmed.
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