Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi identified the majority of the Iranians taken hostage by rebels over the weekend in the Syrian capital as retired members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and employees of government ministries, but denied that they had entered Syria on a military mission.
The weekend kidnapping of the Iranian group sparked a regional diplomatic crisis. Iran has denied Syrian rebel allegations that the 48 men were conducting military surveillance on behalf of Damascus, saying instead they were pilgrims. Tehran has reached out to Sunni Arab countries backing Syrian rebels, including Turkey and Qatar, asking for help negotiating the release of the hostages, who were seized Saturday.
There was no update Wednesday about the fate of the Iranian group. Earlier in the week the rebel brigade that seized them in Damascus had threatened to kill them.