Sunday, August 5, 2012

Syrian Rebels Hold Iranians

BEIRUT—Iran has requested help from Turkey and Qatar to secure the release of 48 Iranians captured over the weekend in the Syrian capital by rebels who insist the group are undercover spies and not innocent pilgrims caught up in the continuing conflict.

A bus carrying the men was attacked on Saturday as it drove through Damascus, according to Iranian state-controlled media. Iranian officials described the group as Shiite devotees intending to visit one of their religion's most holy shrines in the city before inadvertently getting caught up in Syria's internal conflict.

The Syrian rebels who seized the Iranians released a video Sunday saying that the group had been conducting surveillance in the capital. The rebels accused at least one of the Iranians of having ties to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, a charge the rebels said was supported by an Iranian gun permit held by one of the men.

"We received information about the Iranians and started tracking them for two months," Capt. Abdel Nasser al-Shumair, a commander for a previously unknown Syrian rebel battalion called the al-Baraa Brigade, said on the video distributed to Arab-language news stations and posted on YouTube. Read More