Syrian and international websites reported Tuesday that Syrian rebels said they were holding four Filipino UN peacekeepers on the ceasefire line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after clashes in the area had put them in danger.
The abduction was the second such incident in the area in two months.
Rebels with the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades are holding the peacekeepers, a spokesman for the group told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The Yarmouk Brigades were behind the abduction in March of 21 Filipino U.N. peacekeepers released unharmed after four days of tough negotiations.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the detention and called for the peacekeepers' immediate release. They were detained as they patrolled close to an area where 21 Filipino observers were held for three days in March.
The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade made the announcement on its Facebook page, in a statement accompanied by a picture of four peacekeepers wearing light-blue UN flak jackets marked "Philippines."
Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), said on Tuesday the four were "detained today by an unidentified armed group while they were patrolling" near Al Jamlah in the so-called Area of Limitation.
"The four are from the Philippine battalion. Efforts are under way to secure their release," she said.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, strongly condemned the abductions and called for the peacekeepers' immediate release.
"The secretary-general calls on all parties to respect UNDOF's freedom of movement and safety and security," Martin Nesirky, Ban's spokesman, said.
Reuters reported that a Syrian rebel group had claimed responsibility for the abductions. The news agency quoted the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades as saying that it was holding four Filipino peacekeepers following clashes in the area that had put them in danger.