United Nations: UN Chief Ban Ki-moon has commended India's Lieutenant General Iqbal Singh Singha on the completion of his assignment as force commander of the UN mission in the Golan, acknowledging his "dedicated leadership" during an attack by Al-Qaeda-linked armed groups last year.
Singha completed his assignment on January 2 as Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
He will be succeeded by Nepalese Major General Purna Chandra Thapa, 54, who studied Philosophy at the University of Madras and graduated from the National Defence College in New Delhi.
"The Secretary-General is grateful to Lieutenant General Singha for his dedicated leadership during a particularly difficult period in the mission's history," Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters here yesterday.
Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers, serving UNDOF, monitoring a ceasefire established in 1974 between Israel and Syria, were detained on August 28 last year by armed elements of the Syrian opposition in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.
The Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed the crossing Al Qunaytirah sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.
In a separate incident, 72 Filipino peacekeepers had been surrounded by armed elements in two different locations in the Golan and were later safely relocated.
Singha came under criticism by the Philippine military which said he should be investigated for allegedly asking Filipino troops to surrender to the Syrian rebels who had attacked and surrounded their camp.
However, head of United Nations peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous had commended Singha for his "strong leadership" and "good and sound judgement" during the crisis.
Ladsous had said the Indian military official "displayed very strong professionalism and very strong leadership in making decisions all along" that helped.
"And he is utterly to be commended and I place on the record my full trust in the way he performed his duty," he had said.
Haq said Thapa brings to his new position extensive command experience and knowledge of peacekeeping attained through service at the national and international levels.
Prior to his appointment, Thapa was the Master General of Ordnance at the Nepalese Army Headquarters.
From 2012 to 2013, Thapa was Commanding General of an Infantry Division and had twice served with the Nepalese contingent in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
He also served as a UN Military Observer in the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in 1994 and was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) from 2009 to 2011.