The Iranian embassy in Syria has announced that 48 Iranian pilgrims were abducted in Damascus on Saturday August 4.

The pilgrims were reportedly kidnapped on their way from Damascus airport to a home in the suburbs of the city. The group was planning to visit the Shiite shrine of Zeinabieh on the southern outskirts of Damascus.

Iran has supported the Beshar Assad government throughout the unrest that’s now lasted more than a year, and this has made Iranians in Syria a target of opposition anger.

Another 22 Iranian pilgrims, two truck drivers and seven Iranian engineers working in Syria had been kidnapped previously. Of these abductees, 27 have been reportedly released but the rest are still being held by Syrian opposition groups.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has called on his Turkish counterpart to intervene on Iran’s behalf to secure the release of the Iranian pilgrims.

Turkey, unlike Iran, has backed Syria’s opposition forces and is believed to have considerable influence with the anti-Assad groups.