Syrian rebels demand $700,000 for hostages



Moscow: Syrian abductors of two Russian citizens and an Italian national have demanded a ransom of over USD 700,000 for their release, the Kommersant daily said.

The three were abducted on December 17 near the western Syrian port city of Latakia while travelling along the Tartus-Homs highway.

A diplomatic source in Moscow told Kommersant that the demand is around 50 million Syrian pounds (over USD 700,000).

The Russian Foreign Ministry has identified the Russians as V Gorelov and Abdessattar Khassun, who also holds a Syrian passport, and confirmed that Italian Mario Belluomo was abducted with them.

All three work for the Hmisho steel company's plant near Homs. The company received a telephone demand from unidentified individuals for payment as a condition for their release.

Kommersant said the hostages were abducted by one of Syria's opposition groups.

Earlier, Haitham al-Maleh, a leader of the Syrian opposition abroad, told Al Jazeera that Russians are a "legitimate" target for Syrian militants as Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

IANS