This video purports to show Syrian rebel fighters holding 48 abducted Iranians. Rebel members of the Baraa Brigades claim the captives were members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on a reconnaissance mission. / Youtube
(AP) BEIRUT - A pan-Arab television station aired a video Sunday purporting to show Syrian rebels guarding a group of Iranians abducted a day earlier and promising more attacks on Iranian targets.
Armed men in the video identify themselves as members of the rebel "Baraa Brigades" and say that at least one of the 48 captives was an officer of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards. They claim they Iranians were on a "reconnaissance mission" in the capital Damascus at the time they were abducted. Iran says they are pilgrims who were visiting a shrine.
"We promise Iran and all those who support this regime ... we will strike at all (Iranian) targets in Syria," one of the rebels says in the video. "The fate of all Iranians who operate in Syria will be the same as those we have here, either captive or killed, God willing."
The abductions threaten to pull Syria's close ally Iran deeper into the country's civil war. They also raised questions about the extent to which President Bashar Assad's regime can control the center of its power in the capital.
Last month, rebels and Syrian regime forces fought intense battles for a week in Damascus, the opposition fighters' biggest challenge so far in the capital.
The government claimed Saturday it was now in full control of all districts in Damascus after purging one of the last rebel-held areas. But several residents reported hearing loud explosions and gunfire from several districts of the capital throughout the night.
Gunmen snatched 48 Iranian pilgrims just outside Damascus on Saturday in a brazen attack. The pilgrims were on a bus taking them from the suburb of Sayeda Zeinab, about 10 miles south of Damascus, to the airport to return home when they were kidnapped, according to the Iranian state news agency, IRNA.
Mainly Shiite Iran is a close ally of the beleaguered Syrian government, which is dominated by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Syria has long welcomed Iranian pilgrims visiting the ornate, gold-domed shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter.
But the rebels in the video claimed there was an officer in Iran's Revolutionary Guard among the group and showed what was purportedly his ID and a permit to carry weapons.