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Canadian UN worker freed after 8 month Syria captivity

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United Nations said Thursday that a Canadian staffer held by a radical group in Syria for eight months had been freed without a ransom being paid.

Carl Campeau, a legal advisor with the UN force that monitors a ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, was abducted on February 17 as he drove in a Damascus suburb, UN officials said.

Campeau has since been held in two villas in the Damascus region while the United Nations negotiated his release, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Canadian "is healthy and in good spirits," a UN spokesman Farhan Haq told AFP at the UN headquarters in New York. "No ransom was paid," Haq added. Campeau was to imminently leave Syria, the spokesman said.

The United Nations has been working on the case in an "extremely intensive fashion," the UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing.

Syrian state television said the foreign ministry had handed over Campeau, who worked for the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, to a UN representative.

It said that Campeau "was kidnapped by terrorists in February" in Khan al-Shih in Damascus province.

Syria has been in the grip of a civil war since March, 2011 in which well over 110,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.

The UN officials confirmed that Campeau was in a car in the Damascus region when seized at a checkpoint by an "Islamist" group. He was not in a UN convoy, said the officials, who did not identify the group.

UNDOF convoys have been attacked while driving to Damascus from the Golan, where the force has 1,000 peacekeepers from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Philippines.

The UN force was established in 1974 to monitor a withdrawal by Israeli and Syrian forces from the zone. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognised internationally.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131017/canadian-un-worker-freed-after-8-month-syria-captivity