Syrian rebels claim kidnapped Iranians are spies (Lead)

August 5th, 2012 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 5 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Syrian rebels Sunday claimed in a video aired by Al Arabia TV that the 48 Iranians they kidnapped Saturday were members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards and not pilgrims as Tehran claimed.

The rebels “captured 48 of the Shabiha (militiamen) of Iran who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus”, a man dressed as an officer of the rebel Free Syrian Army said in the video.

“During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards,” he said, showing ID documents reportedly taken from one of the Iranian men.

The Iranian media reported Sunday that 48 Iranian Shia pilgrims who were travelling on a bus from Damascus international airport to the Hazrat Zainab shrine on the outskirts of Damascus were abducted by armed insurgents.

In phone conversations held with his Turkish and Qatari counterparts Ahmet Davutoglu and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi requested both countries to intervene immediately to secure the release of the abducted Iranians.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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