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23:39 GMT +3 hours22 December 2014
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Nearly 50 Iranian Pilgrims Kidnapped in Damascus

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A total of 48 Iranian Shia pilgrims were kidnapped in Syrian capital, Damascus on Saturday as they were heading to the country’s shrines, a spokesman for the Iranian Al-Alam TV channel said.

A total of 48 Iranian Shia pilgrims were kidnapped in Syrian capital, Damascus on Saturday as they were heading to the country’s shrines, a spokesman for the Iranian Al-Alam TV channel said.

A bus carrying the pilgrims from the Damascus airport, was stopped by the armed militants from the opposition Syrian Free Army, the spokesman said, adding that under the preliminary information, there are no children and women among those abducted.

The pilgrims were on their way to the Sayeda Zeinab mosque and other holy sites in the Syrian capital, the spokesman told RIA Novosti.

It is not the first abduction of Iranian pilgrims by the Syrian armed groups. The rebels kidnapped the Iranians who were on religious pilgrimages to Syria in January and February.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran, is a member of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shia Islam, Iran’s dominant religion. Syrians opposed to the government belong to the country's Sunni Muslim majority.

The abduction comes a day after the UN General assembly passed the resolution denouncing both Assad’s regime for unleashing tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes on the people of Aleppo, the hotspot of Syria’s civil conflict, and the Security Council for its "failure" to counter the crisis.

The Syrian conflict has claimed 14,000-20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by various opposition groups and the UN. The West is pushing for Assad’s ouster, while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in the country, claiming the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.