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Seized or saved? Peacekeepers' puzzling plight

Is this the Gang That Couldn't Talk Straight?

The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade -- a Syrian militia splinter group -- got it half right. They mastered the social media skills to post an alarming video on Facebook saying they had captured a group of UN peacekeepers near the Golan Heights in retaliation for purported aid to the Assad regime.

They just didn't get the message part.

A quickly rebooted effort insisted they weren't kidnapping, but rescuing, the troops from Assad.

"With God's help we managed to secure a group of UN members...after they were victims of the criminal shelling of Assad's gangs," it said, asking for a UN convoy to take the Filipino soldiers back.

Now, says U.S.-based Syria analyst Asher Berman, "the Yarmouk Brigade is posting reports of the regime bombing tghe Yarmouk valley region where the brigade is based. They are claiming that this is an attempt to target the UN troops in order to blame (the brigade) which is responsible for their safety."

Berman's conclusion: "local, village level leaders often make independent decisions which are not always going to be wise. I think this brigade is beginning to realize that capturing UN forces will not further their cause."

No argument there.

Meanwhile, as debate rages over the reliablity of the opposition forces -- and their control over freelancers and jihadist fighters -- Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian National Coalition's ambassador to the UN, told the Guardian's Paul Owen that "all friends should understand that the Free Syrian Army is not all unified" in spite of it efforts.

And he added, "we are doing everything we can to bring this to a positive ending."

The bigger question is how it will all end in Syria.

Olivia Ward has covered the UN, the former Soviet Union, South Asia and Middle Eastern countries as a correspondent and bureau chief, winning national and international awards.







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