Syrian rebels who captured 48 Iranian pilgrims from a bus are now claiming that the pilgrims are in fact elite members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
According to the Iranian news agency FARS 48 Iranian pilgrims were abducted in Syria by "terrorists affiliated to the so-called Free Army." The Iranian nationals were making a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of the Sayeda Zeinab mosque. Syrian officials stated the abductors were terrorists from the Syria Free Army.
However the rebels are claiming that the abducted pilgrims are in fact elite members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Alarabiya reported a man dressed as an officer of the Free Syrian Army said the 48 abducted men were Shabiha "on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus." He then proceeded to show the ID documents taken from one of the men.
According to the LA Times Iran has denied rebel allegations that it has sent military and intelligence units to Syria to help crush the rebels. Iran has appealed for diplomatic help form Qatar and Turkey to secure the release of what it maintains are 48 pilgrims.
The conflicting reports by Iranian authorities and Syrian rebels highlight the complexities of the situation in Syria, where the Assad regime has the support of Iran which regards the Syrian rebels as Sunni sponsored terrorists. Islamic extremists, who comprise al Qaeda fighters amongst their numbers, are fighting against the Assad regime with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The true identity of the abducted men may not be known until they their release is secured.