DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The 48 Iranians captured by Syrian rebels are not innocent pilgrims but members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, rebels told al-Arabiya network.
In footage shown on the network Sunday, an unidentified man dressed in the uniform of the Free Syrian Army said the rebels "captured 48 of the Shabiha (militiamen) of Iran who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus. During their investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards."
Abdel Nasser Shmeir, identified as the commander of the al-Baraa Brigade, said the Iranians caught with an Afghan interpreter are part of a 150-member group sent by Iran.
Iran maintains those captured are pilgrims. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi Saturday called his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu to intervene, Iran's Press TV said. Press TV said the group of 48 Iranian pilgrims were traveling on a bus to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab on the outskirts of Damascus when they were abducted.
Hazrat Zainab was the granddaughter of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed through his daughter Fatimah.