Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on January 11
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on January 11. Eleven Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped on Wednesday in Syria, in the latest such incident in the unrest-swept Arab state, the state news agency IRNA reported. The Iranian foreign ministry has urged Damascus "to use all means ... to release" Iranian nationals. © Wael Hamedan - AFP/File
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on January 11
AFP
Last updated: February 1, 2012

Iran says 11 more pilgrims kidnapped in Syria

Eleven Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped on Wednesday in Syria, in the latest such incident in the unrest-swept Arab state, the state news agency IRNA reported.

It said the latest case raised to 29 the number of Iranians abducted in Syria since December. The foreign ministry has urged Damascus "to use all means ... to release" Iranian nationals.

Iran's consul at the embassy in Damascus, Abdolmajid Kamjou, quoted by IRNA, said the latest batch was snatched in the central city of Hama after the mission had warned Iranian pilgrims to avoid road trips in Syria.

"Armed people are trying to take advantage of our pilgrims in order to propagate that Iran is sending forces to Syria, but this is just a pretext. All of the Iranians kidnapped so far are civilians," he said.

Syria is Iran's main ally in the Arab world. Anti-regime circles have accused Tehran of aiding the regime's crackdown on dissent.

Last Friday, the rebel Free Syrian Army claimed to have captured five Iranian military officers in the restive city of Homs and urged Tehran to "immediately" withdraw any other troops it may have in Syria.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday warned against US "interference" in Syria's internal affairs while saying he backed reform for the Syrian people.

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