NYALA, Sudan: Armed robbers on Sunday stole more than $300,000 destined for the African Union-UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, sources familiar with the crime said.
It is the latest incident in a recent upsurge of violence in Sudan's vast western region, where African rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003.
UNAMID received reports that a bank vehicle had been robbed by armed men in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, said Christopher Cycmanick, a spokesman for the mission. There were no injuries but the robbers obtained "an undisclosed amount of cash," he said.
Sources with knowledge of the crime said the robbers made off with more than $300,000, which was destined for UNAMID. The bank involved, Bank of Khartoum, declined to comment and there was no indication of who might have been responsible.
[Pak Daily Times] A Sudanese driver for the World Food Programme has been rubbed out in war-torn South Kordofan state, the UN agency said on Sunday, in the second attack against it in two days.
The killing came as officials announced an agreement on aid access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the UN has described a worsening humanitarian crisis but has been severely restricted in its movement. "Our driver was killed yesterday in an armed attack in an area some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kadugli," WFP spokeswoman Amor Almagro said.
Jamal Al Fadil Farag Allah, married with five children, is the first WFP employee to be killed in Sudan, she said. "He was driving fellow staff member Saad Yousif when their vehicle was attacked by two unknown assailants," Almagro said. They were travelling in a marked UN vehicle on official business, she added. Yousif was maimed but survived and was to be airlifted to Khartoum later on Sunday.
More than 200,000 refugees have fled a worsening humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile states since fighting between government and rebel forces from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) began in June last year, the United Nations ...an idea whose time has gone... says. Ethnic minority Death Eaters of the SPLM-N fought alongside southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence in July last year. There are no figures for how many people have died since the war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile began.
The government of Sudan has cited security concerns in placing tight restrictions on the operations of foreign relief agencies in the warzone. After African Union ...a union consisting of 53 African states, most run by dictators of one flavor or another. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established in 2002, the AU is the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was even less successful... -led talks in Æthiopia, AU mediator Thabo Mbeki ...former president of South Africa, succeeding Nelson Mandela. He now pops up periodically as a mediator when something catches fire in Africa... on Saturday announced an agreement between Sudan, the United Nations, the AU and the Arab League ...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing... to allow for humanitarian access in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Sudan has agreed to allow an independent assessment of the humanitarian needs, as well as internationally-monitored delivery of aid throughout the war zone, a foreign analyst said.
However, a woman is only as old as she admits... a ceasefire will be required to implement the measures, he added. A humanitarian source said progress on aid is unlikely until the political side is addressed as well, "including a possible ceasefire."
Libyan security forces on Sunday killed three armed men suspected of being behind seven failed bomb plots, a state spokesman told Reuters.
Security forces surprised the three armed men inside a farm near Aziziya, south of Tripoli, in possession of the same kind of explosives used in seven previous bomb plots, said Saleh Darhoub, spokesman of the National Transitional Council. Several violent incidents have rocked Libya in recent days and on Sunday the International Committee of the Red Cross announced it was suspending its activity in the country's second biggest city, after one of its compounds was attacked with grenades and rockets.
[Ma'an] An Egyptian security source said on Sunday the Rafah border crossing with Gazoo had been closed indefinitely, the state news agency MENA reported, after an attack on a cop shoppe in Sinai killed at least 15 officers.
"A security official announced on Sunday evening that the Rafah land port had been closed for cases of travel and arrivals indefinitely. This comes in the wake of the attack by gunnies on a border checkpoint in Rafah in Sinai," MENA said.
Gunmen killed at least 15 Egyptian coppers and seized an army tank in the assault on a cop shoppe near the border with Israel.
Gazoo's Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, rulers condemned the attack, which took place near the border crossing where the Egyptian, Israeli and Gazook frontiers converge.
"Hamas condemns this ugly crime which killed a number of Egyptian soldiers and extends its deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the leadership and the people of Egypt," the Islamist group said in a statement.
Hamas closed the tunnels to Egypt through which it smuggles goods to avoid an Israel's blockade. Residents said the atmosphere was tense.
MENA quoted an Egyptian security official as saying the attack was staged by snuffies who infiltrated from Gazoo through tunnels and others from the Sinai region.
"Jihadist elements who infiltrated from Gazoo through tunnels, in collaboration with jihadist elements from the regions of Al-Mahdia and Jebel El Halal, attacked a border point on the eastern border," the official was quoted as saying by the MENA news agency.
The official said the snuffies tried to escape to Gazoo using two cars after the attack, but were "dealt with", MENA said, without adding any further details.
The attack, which saw Israeli aircraft destroy a vehicle used by the gunnies to try to storm the fortified border, was the first major security emergency for Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, who summoned his military council.
shooting themselves in the foot is a cultural pastime - both literally and figuratively.
Posted by: abu do you love ||
IIUC, The dead Egyptians are mostly border guards which are part of the armed service (otherwise they wouldn't have an army tank in their compound), not policemen.
Also, this has the smell of Iran behind it. Iran has been ticked at Hamas for some time because the latter refused to support Assad, and, of course, Iran is also ticked at Egypt for Morsi's trip to SArabia.
Posted by: lord garth ||
Unknown assailants have attacked a residential building used by the International Committee of the Red Cross Thingy in the Libyan port of Misrata, the agency says. Grenades and rockets were among the weapons used in the attack, causing major damage.
The agency said it was forced, "with considerable regret", to suspend its work in Misrata and Benghazi. It said the attack was the fifth in the two cities in the past three months.
Ishfaq Muhamed Khan, ICRC delegation head in Libya, said, "We are appalled by this latest act and by the deliberate targeting of our staff: they have put their lives at risk to serve the Libyan people both during and after the conflict."
ADEN: A suicide bombing in south Yemen blamed on Al-Qaeda killed 45 people, local officials said yesterday, as residents voiced fears that a lack of security personnel on the ground will allow the militants to return. In the east of the country, meanwhile, a suspected US drone strike late on Saturday killed five Al-Qaeda militants, a local official said.
The bomber struck on Saturday in Jaar, one of a string of towns in Abyan province that were retaken by government troops in June after being held by Al-Qaeda loyalists for more than a year.
"An Al-Qaeda suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt during a mourning ceremony organized by the Popular Resistance Committees," a local militia that fought alongside the army, said provincial governor Jamal Aqal.
"Bodies were flying in all directions because the explosion was so powerful," a witness said.
An official at Razi hospital in Jaar said it received the bodies of 24 of those killed, while medics said 12 people had died of their wounds in three hospitals in the main southern city Aden. Relatives took the bodies of six of the dead directly from the scene of the attack for burial, local official Mohsen bin Jamila told AFP.
Later yesterday, Jamila told AFP that "three of the wounded have succumbed to their wounds," raising the overall death toll to 45.
The wounded were being treated in hospitals in Jaar and Aden. The deputy head of Jaar's municipal authority held the government at least partially responsible for the attack because of its slowness in deploying police to the town after its recapture by the army. "There is no presence of police in Jaar and other towns of Abyan, while Al-Qaeda militants remain underground," said Nasser Abdullah Mansari.
Security forces sealed off the scene of the strike, witnesses said.
A police officer was injured when unknown assailants opened fire on a police checkpoint in the Russia's republic of Dagestan. A source in the republic's interior ministry said the injured officer was hospitalized. He added that the manhunt will start in the morning.
[Dawn] Fighting between Turkish soldiers and outlawed Kurdish rebels killed 19 people in the southeast of the country on Sunday, the local governor told the Anatolia news agency.
Six soldiers, two village guards and 11 Kurdish rebels were killed following an overnight rebel attack on an army post in a village in Hakkari province which borders Iraq, the governor Orhan Alimoglu said.
MILWAUKEE -- A gunman attacked worshippers on Sunday at a suburban Sikh temple in the midwestern United States, killing at least six people before he was himself shot dead by police.
Not entirely sure yet that this is 'domestic terrorism' as opposed to a psychopath/sociopath like Aurora.
The police commander at the scene in Oak Creek, near Milwaukee in Wisconsin, said he and federal agents were treating the mass shooting as a suspected act of "domestic terrorism," though the shooter's motive was unclear.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards told reporters that his officers had responded to a 911 call and raced to the temple, where one was "ambushed" and shot multiple times before a colleague took down the gunman. The suspect died, as did six others shot in and near the temple. Three men, including the wounded officer, were taken to a Milwaukee hospital, where a medic said they were in "critical condition."
Japal Singh, 29, spoke to several fellow parishioners about what happened and said that while people were still confused, some things were now clear. A man who dropped his father off at the temple, known to Sikhs as a "gurudwara," said he saw the shooter -- described as a white man with a bald head -- kill two people in the parking lot.
"Then he went down inside the temple and then went into the room where the holy scripture is kept and basically shot more people there, multiple people there," said Singh, a combat medic in the US Army reserve.
Witnesses told Singh it was "a horrible place, a lot of blood and basically screams of everybody. Children, women, everybody. It was chaotic inside. People didn't know what was going on."
Police did not confirm the identity of the shooter, although media reports said that the FBI had confirmed his name and had launched a raid at his home.
"We looked at it, the scope of it and what the implications might be. We are treating it as a domestic terrorist incident," Edwards said, adding that there was thought have been only one shooter and that the scene was secure.
Police tactical units were on the scene, along with officers from multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sapreet Kaur, executive director of the Sikh Coalition, which represents the community in the United States, said police should be allowed to investigate but he suspected a hate crime had taken place.
"There have been multiple hate crime shootings within the Sikh community in recent years and the natural impulse of our community is to unfortunately assume the same in this case," he said. "Americans died today in a senseless act of violence, and Americans of all faiths should stand in unified support with their Sikh brothers and sisters."
Hmmm ... are the usual journalistic suspects being rather subdued about this latest incident? The local cops being very, very tight-lipped about details? Are the usual media suspects (I am looking at you, Brian Ross!) still smarting from the spanking they got over the Aurora shooting ... or (and here I am getting out my tinfoil chapeau) is there something about this particular gunman which ties him closely to the Democrat Party powers-that-be, and everyone has zipped lips out of embarrassment and fear of damaging the prevalent meme?
[Dawn] A guard of Bajaur Levies rubbed out a pro-government tribal elder near a checkpoint in Inayat Kallay of Bajaur Agency, aka Turban Central ...Smallest of the agencies in FATA. The Agency administration is located in Khar. Bajaur is inhabited almost exclusively by Tarkani Pashtuns, which are divided into multiple bickering subtribes. Its 52 km border border with Afghanistan's Kunar Province makes it of strategic importance to Pakistain's strategic depth... on Friday. The elder, Haji Dawai Khan, was also senior member of Mamond peace committee.
Witnesses said that Dawai Khan was coming to Inyat Kallay Bazaar in his car along with his driver when personnel of Levies opened fire on him near a checkpoint. Both received serious injuries.
Local people and senior Levies officials rushed to the spot and shifted both the injured to agency headquarters hospital in Khar, where Dawi Khan departed this vale of tears. His driver is stated to be out of danger.
The officials said that the guard had been cooled for a few years Drop the gat, Rocky, or you're a dead 'un! and sent to the lockup in Khar.
[Dawn] A suspected bad turban killed himself and two children on Sunday in southwest Pakistain when a bomb in the car he was driving went kaboom! before he reached his intended target, police said.
A woman was also killed and 12 people maimed when the bomb detonated close to the home of the bad turban on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of the insurgency-hit province of Balochistan ...the Pak province bordering Kandahar and Uruzgun provinces in Afghanistan and Sistan Baluchistan in Iran. Its native Baloch propulation is being displaced by Pashtuns and Punjabis and they aren't happy about it...
The rented house was badly damaged.
"We have recovered the bodies of a woman and two children from the debris and also found a severed head, believed to be of a bad turban who was killed in the blast," police officer Mukhtar Ahmed told AFP.
The injured included seven children, some of them related to the dead, he said.
"The target was not clear. We have launched an investigation to identify the bad turban. Police were also interrogating the owner of the house," he said.
Abdul Razzaq, in charge of the bomb-disposal squad in Quetta, told AFP the car was carrying between 80 and 100 kilos (180-220 pounds) of explosives
[Dawn] Unknown gunnies opened fire on two NATO ...the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's headquartered in Belgium. That sez it all.... containers in Khuzdar, Balochistan ...the Pak province bordering Kandahar and Uruzgun provinces in Afghanistan and Sistan Baluchistan in Iran. Its native Baloch propulation is being displaced by Pashtuns and Punjabis and they aren't happy about it... , DawnNews reported on Sunday.
The containers, carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan were on their way from Bloody Karachi ...formerly the capital of Pakistain, now merely its most important port and financial center. It may be the largest city in the world, with a population of 18 million, most of whom hate each other and many of whom are armed and dangerous... when they were targeted in Balochistan. Unknown gunnies first started shooting at the trucks and then set them on fire.
The gunnies escaped after setting ablaze the trucks, however, no loss of life was reported.
QUETTA: Four people, including a woman and two children, were killed and twelve others critically injured when an explosives-laden car parked in a house in the Faizabad area exploded.
Apparently this is a different incident than the one Fred posted above...
According to police, around 80 kg explosive material was used in the blast that created panic in the entire area. The blast was so powerful that it was heard around four kilometres away and smashed windowpanes of the nearby buildings.
According to DIG Wazir Khan Nasar, the explosion occurred in a house located in the Faizabad area of Sariab. "The explosives were loaded in a vehicle that was parked in the parking lot of the house. The blast destroyed the front portion of the building," he added.
The injured were shifted to the Civil Hospital Quetta. Doctors at the hospital confirmed that three bodies had been brought there, adding that some seriously injured people had been shifted to the Combined Military Hospital for further treatment.
Following the blast, police, Frontier Corps personnel and rescue workers rushed to the site and pulled out the deceased and injured from debris.
The DIG said the blast also badly damaged nearby buildings, adding that over 80 kilogrammes of explosive was used in the blast and that investigations were underway to ascertain how the explosives-laden vehicle reached there. "A dweller of the house has been arrested by police and is being interrogated," he added.
GILGIT: Two passengers were killed and four others injured in a hand grenade attack on a passenger bus near Meenawar on Sunday. According to police sources, unidentified armed men attacked the bus with a grenade, which killed two and injured four others.
Police and local relief teams reached the site of the incident and shifted the dead and injured to the district headquarters hospital. Hospital sources said the injured were in critical condition and the death toll might rise. An emergency was declared in Gilgit Hospital and doctors and nurses were called in to deal with the situation. Police said after the attack, they launched an operation to track and arrest the culprits.
QUETTA: Two tankers carrying oil were set on fire by armed men in Khuzdar district, some 360 km southeast of Quetta, while security forces in Sui area of Dera Bugti recovered 60 kg of explosive material, in a separate incident, on Sunday.
According to Levies Force sources, two oil tankers were heading towards Quetta from Karachi when unidentified armed men opened fire on them at Ornach area on National Highway. No loss of life was reported, Levies force said. The attackers fled from the scene after the incident. The Levies force cordoned off the entire area to track down the suspects. Further probe was underway.
Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected from Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor... 's government to join "the revolution", his front man says.
Mr Hijab was appointed less than two months ago and his departure is the highest-profile defection since the uprising began in March 2011.
State-run TV said he had been sacked.
Riad Hijab, who is said to have fled with his family, is a Sunni Mohammedan from the Deir al-Zour area of eastern Syria which has been caught up in the revolt.
Early reports said Mr Hijab had defected to Jordan, but Jordanian state TV later denied this. By Monday afternoon, Mr Hijab's whereabouts were still unknown.
'Freedom and dignity'
Earlier, his front man Mohammed el-Etri told al-Jazeera TV that he was in "a safe location".
"I address you today at this grave hour where the country is living under the brunt of genocide and barbarian brutal killing against unarmed people who are simply demanding freedom and a dignified life," ran Mr Hijab's statement read by his front man.
"Today I declare... that I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution. And I declare that from today I am a soldier of this holy revolution."
Mr Etri later told the BBC that the Syrian regime was "now in its last throes" and that it had been dealt "a fatal blow" by Mr Hijab's defection.
AMMAN - Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has defected to the opposition seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a spokesman for Hijab said on Monday, marking one of the most high profile desertions from the Damascus government.
This is a big problem for Pencilneck. Hijab perhaps was not a member of the innermost circle, but he can claim to the rubes and Westerners (but I repeat myself) that he, not Pencilneck, is the legitimate government in Syria. It's great window-dressing at least for the rebels.
Syrian state TV said Hijab had been fired, but an official source in Amman said the dismissal followed his defection to neighboring Jordan with his family.
"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," Hijab said in a statement read in his name by the spokesman, which was broadcast on Al Jazeera television.
Syrian state TV announced Hijab's dismissal as government forces appeared to prepare a ground assault to clear battered rebels from Aleppo, the country's biggest city.
Assad appointed Hijab, a former agriculture minister, as prime minister only in June following a parliamentary election which authorities said was a step towards political reform but which opponents dismissed as a sham.
"Hijab is in Jordan with his family," said the Jordanian official source, who did not want to be further identified. The source said Hijab had defected to Jordan before the announcement of his sacking.
Syrian TV said Omar Ghalawanji, who was previously a deputy prime minister, had been appointed to lead a temporary caretaker government on Monday.
[An Nahar] Syrian regime warplanes pounded rebel positions in second city Aleppo ...For centuries, Aleppo was Greater Syria's largest city and the Ottoman Empire's third, after Constantinople and Cairo. Although relatively close to Damascus in distance, Aleppans regard Damascenes as country cousins... on Sunday ahead of a threatened ground assault by more than 20,000 troops assembled around the commercial capital.
A high-level security official said Syria's army completed its deployment of reinforcements to the northern city of Aleppo, ready for a decisive showdown.
"The war is likely to be long, because there will have to be street battles in order to get rid of the terrorists," the source told Agence La Belle France Presse, declining to be named.
"All the reinforcements have arrived and they are surrounding the city," he said. "The army is ready to launch its offensive, but is awaiting orders."
Morning festivities killed at least two rebels in Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding Sunday's violence cost at least another 38 lives across the country -- 24 civilians, 10 soldiers and four more rebels.
Troops shelled rebel-held Salaheddin district in the southwest and festivities erupted in the neighborhoods of Sukari, Hamdaniyeh and Ansari neighborhoods, the Britannia-based watchdog said.
The opposition Syrian National Council charged the army bombardment of Aleppo, scene of fierce fighting since July 20, was hitting the city's key public institutions, some of historical significance.
"After failing to subdue (rebel forces) in Aleppo... the Syrian regime's gangs have started to target government institutions and buildings," the exiled opposition group said. "Some of them have historical and archaeological value."
Aleppo preserves a raft of historical sites, including its renowned 13th century citadel. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named the Ancient City a World Heritage Site in 1986.
The SNC accused the army of shelling Aleppo's television building.
"The criminal regime does not hesitate to shell these institutions," the group said. "The rebels were forced to move away from the television building in order to protect the Syrian people's property and heritage."
Rebels tried to storm the state television ... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
building on Saturday before being driven back by shelling, the Observatory said.
A senior government security figure warned at the weekend that "the battle for Aleppo has not yet begun, and what is happening now is just the appetizer... The main course will come later."
The official said at least 20,000 troops were now on the ground. "The other side are also sending reinforcements," the official added of the rebels, who claim to have seized half the city.
The pro-government Al-Watan newspaper said the army had killed "hundreds of terrorists" in Aleppo but that between 6,000 and 8,000 remained.
In Damascus ...Home to a staggering array of terrorist organizations... , regime forces raided the district of Qaboon on Sunday, arresting several civilians, the Observatory said, adding that one of the detainees was a 12-year-old boy.
After festivities with rebels in Rokn Eddin on Saturday, the military set up new checkpoints in the neighborhood of Damascus and in several other parts of the capital.
Elsewhere in the province of Damascus, festivities broke out in Kfar Batna as regime forces shelled that village. The army also shelled Harasta, in the same province.
At Rastan in the central province of Homs, regime forces pounded rebel positions, said the Britannia-based Observatory.
"Regime forces dropped more than 60 shells on Rastan, at a rate of four to five shells a minute," the watchdog added.
Syria's army said on Saturday it had seized Tadamun, the last rebel-held district of Damascus, after heavy fighting ... as opposed to the more usual light or desultory fighting... , and authorities took journalists on an escorted tour.
"We have cleansed all the districts of Damascus, from al-Midan to Mazzeh, from al-Hajar al-Aswad to Qadam... to Tadamun," an officer told news hounds on the tour.
The fighting has displaced tens of thousands, including some 600 Paleostinian families who arrived in Leb in the past three days, most escaping violence at the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, a Paleostinian official in Leb said.
I hope these rebels understand now that Uncle Sugar is NOT gonna bail their asses out of this one. It's gonna be like the good old days when wars were fought until one side wins and the other loses and woe unto the losers. Hey, you start a war, you accept the consequences. We're not buying all this bullcrap about how that mean old Assad has to step down just because he's a mean old guy. We don't give a rat's ass who wins or who loses because they are ALL bad. I hate to sound so cynical but maybe this way you bitches will think twice before starting another war.
Now, I have my popcorn but can I please get some Milk Duds?
Posted by: Abu Uluque ||
In a shoot out between two sides, both of which are vile, the only thing I am rooting for in this one is a high body count on both sides and lots of jihadist/terrorists buried with their weapons.
Every pound of explosives they use on each other is a pound of explosives they can't use on us or our allies.
I hope this drains their supply chain for a while.
Posted by: Bill Clinton ||
ALEPPO: The Syrian army pounded rebel positions in second city Aleppo yesterday ahead of a threatened ground assault after boasting its capture of the last rebel-held district of the capital.
A high-level security source said the army yesterday completed its deployment of reinforcements to Aleppo, ready for a decisive showdown.
At least two rebel fighters were killed in early morning clashes in Aleppo, which has already been the scene of heavy fighting since July 20, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Troops shelled rebel-held Salaheddin district in the southwest and clashes erupted in the Sukkari, Hamdaniyeh and Ansari neighbourhoods, the Britain-based watchdog said.
The opposition Syrian National Council charged that the army's bombardment of the rebels was hitting key public institutions in the commercial capital, some of historical significance.
"After failing to subdue (rebel forces) in Aleppo... the Syrian regime's gangs have started to target government institutions and buildings," the exiled opposition group said. "Some of them have historical and archaeological value."
The SNC accused the army of shelling Aleppo's television building. "The criminal regime does not hesitate to shell these institutions," the group said, adding: "The rebels were forced to move away from the television building in order to protect the Syrian people's property and heritage."
Rebels tried to storm the state television building on Saturday before being driven back by shelling, the Observatory said.
The Syrian people's heritage was obviously less important then...
"A high-level security source said the army yesterday completed its deployment of reinforcements to Aleppo, ready for a decisive showdown."
Meaning that more of them are camped on the safe perimeter line - but not a dam*ed one of them has the guts to go inside the suburbs. So they just shell from a distance - ahhh the aroma of indiscriminate casulaties. It smells like - WAR CRIMES.
Meanwhile, occasional skirmihes inside Aleppo have expended from a 1-block radius to a 2-block radius. 95% of the population is locked inside their quiet homes and praying. Hence the headlines ... fighting intensifies.
The rebels "captured 48 of the Shabiha (militiamen) of Iran who were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus," said a man dressed as an officer of the Free Syrian Army, in the video aired by Al Arabiya. "During the investigation, we found that some of them were officers of the Revolutionary Guards," he said, showing ID documents taken from one of the men, who appeared in the background with a large Syrian independence flag held by two armed men behind them.
Abdel Nasser Shmeir, interviewed later by Al Arabiya and presented as the commander of Al-Baraa Brigade, gave similar details.
"They are 48, in addition to an Afghani interpreter," he said, claiming that the captives were members of a 150-strong group sent by Iran for "reconnaissance on the ground." Shmeir said his men "have not yet entered into any contacts" about the hostages.
Iran has appealed to Turkey and Qatar, both with close relations with the Syrian opposition, for help in securing the release of the hostages it claims were pilgrims visiting the Sayyida Zeinab shrine, a Shiite pilgrimage site in the southeastern suburbs of Damascus. Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged Turkey and Qatar, which have backed the Syrian opposition, to help release the captives, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. IRNA said 48 pilgrims were abducted.
I'm sure there's a shrine in Aleppo that draws the pilgrims there...