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UN peacekeepers detained by unknown group in Syria

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] released a statement Thursday condemning a currently unidentified extremist group for the detention of 43 peacekeepers [press release] from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) [official website] in southern Syria. A further 81 peacekeepers are stranded [UN News Centre report] near Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah, with movement restricted by frequent clashes between Syrian and Islamic State (IS) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] troops. Concern for the peacekeepers remains high, given the burst of recent violence by IS killing more than 150 captured troops [AP report]. Ban beseeches all groups to release UN peacekeepers unharmed.

Iraq and Syria have experienced mounting unrest since IS (also known as ISIS and ISIL) began its insurgency in 2013. This week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported that IS fighters killed up to 670 prisoners in Mosul and committed other crimes in Iraq that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. Also this week the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq [official website] Nickolay Mladenov called for immediate action to stop the inhumane activity caused by IS in Amerli [JURIST report]. The UN [JURIST report] and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] have consistently expressed alarm alarm over the violence occurring in the country including numerous executions of Iraqi civilians, religious leaders and government affiliates by IS members and the Iraqi government's execution of Iraqi nationals for terrorism related offenses [JURIST reports]. The IS-instigated atrocities in Iraq began in June of 2013, two years after US troops pulled out [JURIST backgrounder] of the country.

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