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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Denies Syria Captives Are Revolutionary Guards

RIA Novosti

14:12 06/08/2012 MOSCOW, August 6 (RIA Novosti) - The Iranian foreign ministry denied on Monday that the 48 Iranians kidnapped in Syria on Saturday were members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Arab-language Al-Alam TV said.

“We strongly deny the information disseminated by certain media that our kidnapped pilgrims are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. All of them are pilgrims who came to Damascus to visit its shrines,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said.

The Iranian media reported on Sunday that 48 Iranian pilgrims who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the Hazrat Zainab shrine on the outskirts of Damascus were abducted by armed insurgents. This is the third kidnapping of Iranian citizens since the crisis in Syria began in March 2011.

A man dressed as an officer of the Free Syrian Army said in a video posted online that the captured pilgrims were “militiamen on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus.”

A spokesman for the Syrian opposition told Agence France Press on Monday that the Iranians were taken hostage by members of Iranian insurgent group Jundullah. Tehran blames the group for numerous mass killings, armed robberies, kidnappings and blasts and claims it has ties with foreign special services.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asked Turkey and Qatar to intervene immediately to secure the release of abducted Iranian pilgrims.

The Syrian conflict has claimed 14,000-20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by various opposition groups and the UN. The West is pushing for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in the country, claiming the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.

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