Syrian Rebels Free 48 Iranians Pilgrims

DAMASCUS: Foreign-backed militants in Syria have released the 48 Iranian pilgrims who had been abducted near the capital city of Damascus, Press TV reported on Wednesday.

The abductees were set free in a swap deal between the Syrian government and the armed militants. 

An undisclosed number of Turkish nationals arrested by Syrian security forces in recent months were among those released by Damascus in the swap deal. 

On August 4, 2012, 48 Iranian pilgrims, who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of lady Zainab (AS) on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, were abducted by the militants.

Thousands of Shia pilgrims visit the shrine to pay obeisance to daughter of Ali and Fatima (AS) who is credited with leading the Karbala uprising against Umayuad caliph Yazid following the martyrdom of his brother Imam Hussain.

In a video aired by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network, the militants threatened to kill all the abducted pilgrims if the Syrian government did not release the captured militants and if it did not stop operations against the armed groups in the country within 48 hours. The threat, however, was never carried out. 

The reported deal would mark the first major prisoner swap since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. 

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, and thousands of people have been killed in the turmoil.Agencies

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