Syria confirmed Tuesday the kidnapping of around 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims along with their Syrian driver in northern Aleppo province, according to state-run SANA news agency.
The pilgrims were kidnapped in Azzaz area of Syrian northern Aleppo province and the borders with Turkey while they were on their way back to Lebanon from Iran, said SANA, giving no further details.
However, pro-government news websites said the Syrian army unleashed a wide-scale campaign in Azzaz in order to find the kidnapped Lebanese. They added that severe clashes occurred in Azzaz between government troops and armed men and that one of the abducted Lebanese has somehow escaped and is currently with the Syrian army.
The latest incident widens the gap and strengthens the sectarian conflict in Syria that has recently spilled over into neighboring Lebanon that has witnessed sectarian clashes over the past days, resulting in some casualties.
Many Shiites have been kidnapped in Syria by the armed rebels, who are accusing Iran of sending its fighters to help the Syrian regime in stamping out the anti-regime movement in Syria.
Meanwhile , Free Syrian Army’s Lieutenant Colonel Khaled Hamoud denied on Tuesday that the FSA kidnapped Lebanese Shiite men in Syria.
“We have nothing to do with the abduction of the 13 Lebanese men in Aleppo,” Hammoud told Future News television accusing the Syrian regime of being behind the abduction .
The Syrian regime was “responsible for the kidnapping.” He said