BEIRUT: Syrian rebels holding dozens of Iranian hostages since August and who threatened to execute them by Sunday have temporarily postponed their killing, a Free Syrian Army spokesman told AFP.
“Contact has been established with the Turkish authorities as part of indirect negotiations between the FSA and the Syrian and Iranian regimes,” said Ahmad al-Khatib, spokesman for the FSA’s Military Council in Damascus province.
“If the Syrian regime does not in the coming hours release three girls and two families detained from the Eastern Ghuta area of Damascus province, the group holding the hostages may start fulfilling their ultimatum,” Khatib added.
The FSA’s Revolutionary Military Council said Thursday it would execute the hostages within 48 hours if the army did not withdraw completely from the Eastern Ghuta area, a focus of heavy military operations since early on in the anti-regime revolt.
“We also have other secret, military demands. If the regime does not fulfill them we will start finishing off the hostages,” Abul-Wafa, the Revolutionary Military Council Chief in Damascus province, told AFP via Skype Friday.
It is the second time the rebels have issued such a threat against the hostages.
The rebels claim that the hostages are members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
Iran maintains they were visiting Syria as pilgrims to a Shiite Muslim shrine in southeastern Damascus, but have also said some of them are retired army and Guards members.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 09, 2012, on page 8.