Gunmen kidnap 11 Iranian pilgrims in Syria

AP News
Posted: Feb 01, 2012 12:44 PM
Gunmen kidnap 11 Iranian pilgrims in Syria

Gunmen kidnapped 11 Iranian pilgrims heading to the Syrian capital by road from Turkey on Wednesday, a diplomat in Damascus said.

The group of 35 pilgrims were on a bus outside the central city of Hama when armed men ambushed it, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give details on the abduction.

The gunmen took away 11 men, leaving behind the women, children and elderly men, after stealing money and mobile phones from them, the diplomat said. The pilgrims had been heading to visit Shiite shrines in Syria, he said.

Iran's state-run Press TV also reported the abduction of the 11, but did not provide details.

It was the latest in a string of reported kidnappings of Iranians amid Syria's turmoil, as the regime cracks down on protesters and military defectors. Iran is Syria's closest ally and has strongly backed President Bashar Assad.

Last Friday, gunmen snatched 11 Iranian pilgrims along the same highway, according to Iran's state news agency IRNA. In December seven Iranian engineers building a power plant in central Syria were kidnapped. They have not yet been released.