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Fiji soldiers kidnapped but score peace coup

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 08:45 08/05/2012

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LATEST: Ten Fijian peacekeepers serving with a New Zealand-led Middle East border force are safe as Fiji’s military commander celebrates a diplomatic coup with the United Nations.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, has announced that eight Fijians will join an observer mission to civil war torn Syria.

New Zealand, which has offered five soldiers to the Syria mission, has campaigned with Australia to keep Fijians out of UN peacekeeping operations until democracy is restored.

In today’s action, 10 Fijians were released by Bedouin tribesmen after the were kidnapped briefly from the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and it is currently commanded by New Zealander Major General Warren Whiting.

The Bedouin had taken the Fijians in a bid to secure the release of fellow tribesmen from prison.

The remote Sinai region has descended further into lawlessness since a popular uprising ousted Egypt's president more than a year ago and threw the security apparatus into disarray.

Agence France-Presse reports the Fijians were freed after the Bedouin received assurances that their demands would be met.

AFP says Sinai Bedouin routinely complain of unfair treatment and neglect by Egypt's government. They regularly press their demands by staging protests and blocking roads. Occasionally they take tourists hostage.

Bedouin tribes in the Sinai have longstanding grievances with central government

The MFO website says New Zealand has 28 people in the organisation, including two other senior command positions.

Meanwhile in Suva, Bainimarama has hailed the deployment of eight Fiji soldiers to the UN Supervision Mission In Syria.

"Fiji is proud to be able to once again support the cause of peace in the world," Bainimarama said.

"Fiji welcomes the strong confidence of the United Nations in the peacekeeping abilities of Fijian military forces, and we as a nation welcome the opportunity to offer our military forces to aid a settlement to the Syrian conflict."

Fijians have served – and died – as peacekeepers in Lebanon, Bougainville, Rhodesia, Kuwait, Sudan, Timor, Iraq, and Sinai.

Fiji soldiers also serve in other nation’s forces and last weekend a Fijian soldier was killed with British Forces in Afghanistan.

Private Ratu Manasa Silibaravi, 32, was killed in an indirect fire attack on an operating base Ouellette, in the northern part of Nahr-e Saraj district in Afghanistan with his British colleague Corporal Andrew Steven Roberts.

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A total of 412 members of UK's armed forces have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 200, including 10 Fijian born soldiers.

- Stuff

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