Reports: Syrian rebels release eleven kidnapped Iranians
TEHRAN/DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) — Eleven Iranian pilgrims who were kidnapped by Syrian rebels earlier this month have been released through the joint efforts of Iran and Turkey, Iranian media reported on Tuesday.
The group was kidnapped on a road connecting the Syrian city of Hama to the capital, Damascus, on February 1. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at his weekly press conference in Tehran that the victims were freed with the cooperation of friendly countries.
Turkish media reported that the eleven Iranians allegedly kidnapped by the Free Syrian Army were released after a mediation by Turkey’s Humanitarian Aid Foundation. The Free Syrian Army said the Iranian nationals were handed over to the Turkish authorities, according to Iran’s Press TV.
One of the abductees told reporters that kidnappers threatened to throw a grenade at the bus carrying the Iranian pilgrims if they refrained from handing over their valuables. They also plundered the pilgrims’ money and other belongings, causing fear and horror among the Iranian travelers.
This is not the first time that Iranians have become the target of abduction by unknown gunmen in Syria over the recent months. On January 26, a group of unidentified armed men attacked a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, kidnapping eleven men. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
Five Iranian electrical engineers were also kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the restive Syrian city of Homs on December 21, 2011. The group of engineers was abducted en-route to the 450-MW power plant they were involved in building and are still in captivity.