Rebel Group Shows Images of Abductees and Passports: No Negotiation before Nasrallah Apologizesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A previously unknown armed group calling itself "Syrian Revolutionaries - Aleppo Countryside" on Thursday claimed that 11 Lebanese pilgrims abducted in Syria on May 22 are in the group's custody and that they are in good health.
A statement carrying the group’s signature and sent to Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera said negotiations to release the abductees “would only be possible after (Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan) Nasrallah apologizes for his latest speech.”
The TV network also aired images of the abductees’ passports, saying they were sent by the group.
“We have decided to keep the Lebanese abductees after we learned that some of them are involved in the crimes and massacres committed by the regime and they are currently under interrogation,” a man who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Halabi, the group’s spokesman, told Al-Jazeera.
“Our message to Nasrallah is that it is prohibited to enter Syria and shed the blood of Syrians,” al-Halabi added.
"Our problem is not with any particular community but with those who assist in the suppression of the uprising," the statement said, in allusion to the 15-month revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Nasrallah is scheduled to make a televised address on Friday at 4:30 p.m. during a ceremony to commemorate the 23rd death anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Addressing the abductors in a speech on May 25, Nasrallah said: "If this abduction was aimed at putting pressure on our position (of support for Syria)," it failed.
“We condemn your act and the kidnapping of the innocent harms your cause,” he added.
Syrian state media has said the kidnapping took place near the Aleppo town of Aazaz, which sits along the border with Turkey. It said the 11 men were part of a group of 53 pilgrims on board two buses.
The women were allowed to go free and returned to Beirut by plane on May 23. In his speech, Nasrallah thanked Syrian authorities and President Bashar Assad for providing the plane that transported the women to Beirut hours after the abduction of the men.
He also condemned attacks against Syrian workers in Lebanon that took place in the wake of the kidnap.
On Sunday, the outgoing head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, said the pilgrims were still being held in Syria after, reports, later denied, that they had resurfaced in Turkey.
"We spoke with some parties who had contacts with the group and we offered our assistance to have them freed," Ghalioun said.
But the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army, which has close links with the SNC, has denied any involvement in the kidnapping.