Al-Arabiyah television network aired a video today in which the so-called Free Syrian Army claims responsibility for the abduction of 48 Iranians in Damascus.
In the video, the kidnappers claim that their hostages are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), even though Iranian authorities had announced that they were pilgrims headed for the Shiite shrine of Zeinabiyeh.
The video shows the captives seated behind the armed Syrian fighters, as a rebel leader says: “They are Iranian thugs who were in Damascus for a field reconnaissance mission.”
The New York Times reports that Col. Malik al-Kurdi, a deputy commander of the Free Syrian Army, has said that the group involved in kidnapping the 48 Iranians had acted independently, without informing the Free Syrian Army.
The rebels on the video, which aired on Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiyah network, emphasize that the government of Beshar Assad will soon collapse. They warn Iran against supporting the regime unless they want to end up “dead or as hostages.”
Iranian authorities claim the kidnappers are trying to fabricate a false story about the captive Iranians, who were merely in Syria on a pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, Iran has appealed to Qatar and Turkey, countries that so far have supported Syria’s opposition forces, to help secure the release of the Iranian captives.
While Iran has steadfastly supported Beshar Assad throughout the Syrian unrest, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have backed the groups opposing Assad.