SANAA: Five Yemeni army officers being held by a shadowy Islamist group in Syria are students at a military academy in Aleppo and are not involved in the fighting that has engulfed the country, a Yemeni official said.
In a statement released late Monday on the ministry of defence website, the unnamed official denied the officers had "any link at all, and they did not participate in the events in Syria."
He said the five officers "were on their way back home after they completed their studies," at the academy in Aleppo, northern Syria's largest city where fierce battles have been raging between regime troops and rebels.
He added that the five men were "kidnapped while on their way to Damascus," from where they were planning to fly home to Sanaa.
According to the officials, the defence ministry has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to "intervene and help secure the release of the five officers."
On September 30, the Al-Nusra Front posted a four-minute video on jihadist forums showing the Yemeni captors, saying they were helping President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The video shows the Yemeni army ID cards of the five officers who condemn the "crimes" committed by Assad's regime against Syrians and the Sanaa government's support for Damascus.
The men -- named as Ali al-Salama, Mohammed Abdo al-Mlaiki, Hani Nizar, Hassan al-Wahib and Ahmed Radman -- say they were serving in Aleppo.
"I came after coordination between the Yemeni and Syrian governments to crush the Syrian revolt," says Mlaiki, who like the four other officers is seen sitting below a black flag on which "Al-Nusra Front" is written in Arabic.
"I call on the Yemeni government to cut off all military and logistical relations (with Syria) because President Assad's regime kills its people, and this is what we saw with our own eyes in many Syrian regions."
It was unclear when the men were detained or when the video was taped.
Al-Nusra has claimed the majority of suicide attacks during the anti-regime revolt in Syria, including a twin suicide bombing in Damascus in May that killed 55 people.