Syrian rebels swap 48 Iranians for government prisoners: Iran TV

DUBAI Wed Jan 9, 2013 5:59am EST

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Syrian rebel groups have freed 48 Iranians captured over recent months in the country in exchange for prisoners held by Syrian security services, Iran's state-run Press TV said on Wednesday.

The report did not give details but Iran's state-controlled Arabic language television station al-Alam said its correspondent had confirmed the release of the Iranians.

Earlier on Wednesday the Turkish humanitarian aid agency IHH said the Syrian government was to free 2,130 civilian prisoners in exchange for the Iranians.

IHH board member Osman Atalay told Reuters most of the prisoners were Syrian but they also included some Turkish nationals and "citizens of other countries". There was no confirmation from the Syrian government.

Iran's Fars news agency reported that the deal was brokered with the assistance of Qatar and Turkey.

The Iranians were captured in Damascus in August by rebel groups who alleged they were members of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tehran denied this, saying they were Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims visiting a shrine in Syria.

(Reporting by Marcus George, Additional reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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