48 Iranian pilgrims who were captured near the Shi’ite shrine of Sayeda Zeinab have finally been freed today as part of a major prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the rebels, which saw the government releasing 2,130 detainees.
The pilgrims were captured on a tour bus, and even though the Free Syrian Army never provided any evidence, they insisted the Iranians were probably members of the Revolutionary Guards. Why top Iranian soldiers would be unarmed and unescorted on a tour bus was never answered.
This allegation was a key part of how the rebels managed to argue in favor of such a huge ransom of prisoners for them, but with Syria increasingly reliant on Iran as one of their last few allies, not making a deal appears not to have been an option.
Everyone on both sides have reportedly been released now, and the Iranians have arrived at a hotel in Damascus, where they were welcomed by the Iranian ambassador. They will likely be leaving to return to Iran soon.
Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz
- Iraq Says 36 ISIS Killed in Thursday's Syria Strike - April 22nd, 2018
- Trump Denies Making Too Many Concessions to North Korea - April 22nd, 2018
- Iran Vows 'Vigorous' Enrichment of Uranium if US Quits Nuclear Deal - April 22nd, 2018
- Syrian Forces Advance into Islamist-Held Area South of Damascus - April 22nd, 2018
- Chemical Inspectors Complete Visit to Syria's Douma - April 22nd, 2018