Syria militants free 48 Iranian pilgrims

An image grab from Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television network shows the 48 Iranian pilgrims abducted in Syria (in the background) with their militant captors.

Foreign-backed militants in Syria have released the 48 Iranian pilgrims who had been abducted near the capital city of Damascus, Press TV reports.

The abductees were set free in a swap deal between the Syrian government and the armed militants.

An undisclosed number of Turkish nationals arrested by Syrian security forces in recent months were among those released by Damascus in the swap deal.

On August 4, 2012, 48 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.

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 if it 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.