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Continued: Islamic State group kills dozens of captured Syrian soldiers, posts photos online

  • Article by: ZEINA KARAM , Associated Press
  • Last update: August 28, 2014 - 4:55 PM

A U.N. commission accused the Islamic State group Wednesday of committing crimes against humanity in Syria — echoing U.N. accusations against the group in Iraq.

The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, and is now considering extending its campaign to Syria, home to the group's declared capital of their self-styled caliphate.

The Islamic State group's surge is one aspect of Syria's multi-layered civil war, a bloody conflict that has killed more than 190,000 people and destabilized the region.

The 43 U.N. peacekeepers were detained by an armed group early Thursday on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, where fighting has raged this week between Syrian rebels and government forces.

The U.N. said another 81 peacekeepers were being "restricted to their positions" in the vicinity of Ruwaihaniyeh and Burayqa.

The office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not identify the armed group that was holding the peacekeepers. Several rebel groups operate in the Golan, while the Islamic State group has no known presence there.

"We are dealing with non-state armed actors," the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York.

"We're not in a position to confirm who is holding whom. Some groups self-identified as being affiliated with al-Nusra, however, we are unable to confirm it," Dujarric said, referring to the al-Qaida-linked group, al-Nusra Front.

He said the 43 detained peacekeepers were from Fiji while 81 troops from the Philippines have had their movements restricted.

The Syrian government denounced the "kidnapping" of the U.N. peacekeepers and called for their immediate release.

The peacekeepers are part of UNDOF, the mission that has been monitoring a 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war. As of July, UNDOF had 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines.

Syrian rebels briefly abducted U.N. peacekeepers twice in 2013 before eventually releasing them unharmed.

Heavy fighting has engulfed the Syrian side of the Golan since Wednesday, when rebels captured a crossing on the disputed frontier with Israel. A rebel spokesman said the militants are focused on fighting Assad, and pose no threat to Israel.

On Thursday, government warplanes targeted several rebel positions in the area, including in the village of Jaba, Syrian activists said.

White plumes of smoke set off by exploding mortar rounds could be seen Thursday from the Israeli side of the Golan as the sound of small arms fire echoed in the background.

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