Abducted Iranian pilgrims return home

Iranian pilgrims released by foreign-sponsored Syrian militants arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on January 10, 2013.

Forty-eight Iranian pilgrims, who were kidnapped by foreign-sponsored Syrian militants several months ago, have arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport.

The abductees arrived in Tehran Thursday afternoon, a day after they were released in a swap deal between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

The Iranian pilgrims, who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (AS) on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, were abducted by the militants on August 4, 2012.

In a video aired by the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network, the militants threatened to kill all the Iranian abductees if the Syrian government did not release the captured militants and did not stop operations against the armed groups in the country within 48 hours. The threat, however, was never carried out.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.