Moscow: The Iranian foreign ministry Monday denied that the 48 Iranians kidnapped in Syria were members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
"We strongly deny the information disseminated by certain media that our kidnapped pilgrims are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. All of them are pilgrims who came to Damascus to visit its shrines," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying by the Arab-language Al-Alam TV.
Iranian media reported Sunday that 48 pilgrims travelling on a bus from Damascus international airport to the Hazrat Zainab shrine on the outskirts of the Syrian capital were abducted by armed insurgents. This was the third kidnapping of Iranian citizens since the crisis in Syria began in March 2011.
Later, a man dressed as an officer of the rebel Free Syrian Army said in a video posted online that the captured pilgrims were "militiamen on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus".
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has asked Turkey and Qatar to intervene to secure the release of the abducted pilgrims.
The Syrian conflict has claimed 14,000-20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by various opposition groups and the UN.