Iranian Hostages in Grave Danger, Syrian Rebels Warn
(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syrian rebels who abducted a busload of Iranians last weekend near Damascus claimed on Monday that three had been killed in artillery attacks by the Syrian military.
The kidnappers belong to a wing of the Free Syrian Army seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad. They warned that the remainder of the 48 hostages would die unless the shelling stopped.
Iran says that the Iranians on the bus were Shiite pilgrims on their way to a shrine outside of Damascus. However, the rebels contend that their captives are actually members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, who they allege were sent to help al-Assad's forces, although Tehran denies this allegation.
It's unclear what help Syria has been getting from Iran, one of its few allies in the region. Tehran is now calling for an international emergency meeting on Thursday in the Iranian capital.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that a total halt to the violence, and national dialogue, are the solution to control the crisis in Syria, and to that end Iran is organizing this meeting."
Ten nations are expected to attend, although whatever decision the summit makes isn't expected to put an end to the violence in Syria, now entering its 18th month.
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