London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Dowlat Norouzi, spokesperson for the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran group, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian opposition was in possession of information confirming that 14 of the 48 Iranians captured in Syria are officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC].
The 48 Iranians had been taken hostage on Saturday by the Free Syrian Army [FSA] as they travelled by bus to the airport in Damascus. Iranian authorities are claiming they are religious pilgrims, whilst the FSA claims they are Iranian soldiers and officers taking part in the suppression of the Syrian people.
Tehran has called on Turkey and Qatar to intervene and help return the captives. Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, reportedly personally flew to Turkey to attempt to secure Ankara’s help in the recovery effort, whilst Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, condemned the kidnapping, saying “in the name of Islam, some of these governments have launched killings and even treat Iranian pilgrims in Syria with violence.” He added “these crimes are not something the Iranian nation will disregard.”
However Iranian opposition figure, Dowlat Norouzi, speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, revealed that “the information coming from Iranian opposition sources is that the commander, deputy commander and head of artillery of the IRGC Martyrs Forces, as well as a number of operational and intelligence officers based out of IRGC Hamza base [in northwestern Iran]…are among the 48 captured Iranians.” She added that an Iranian mullah was also amongst those Iranians captured by the FSA.
Norouzi revealed that the Iranian opposition had been able to confirm the names of 9 of the 48 captured Iranians in Syria, along with some personal details. She provided the following details to Asharq Al-Awsat:
– Brigadier General Abeddine Kharam, Commander of the Martyrs Forces of West Azerbaijan Province.
– Mullah Kareem Hussein Khani, Commander of the Basij Force of West Azerbaijan Province and a former member of the office of the representative of the Wali al-Faqih [Guardian of the Jurists] to the Martyrs Forces of West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Yousef Akbari, Deputy Commander of the Martyrs Forces of West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Hussein Nouri, Artillery Commander of the Martyrs Forces of West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Ghalam Reza Kerbra’i, Officer of the Martyrs Forces of West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Taleb Rahimi, IRGC commander of Miandoab County, West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Mohsen Zanji, officer of IRGC Hamza base in West Azerbaijan Province.
– IRGC Colonel Jaafar Barwal, officer of IRGC Hamza base in West Azerbaijan Province.
– Commander Kareem Behrami, commander of IRGC Guard Troop stationed in Salmas, West Azerbaijan Province.
Iranian opposition sources also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that information indicates that the IRGC officers were in Syria in order to actively participate in field operations, and that their role was not limited to training or consulting. The source claimed that the IRGC elements had been sent to Syria following an order from IRGC command, and that they had first been transferred to Tehran, before being dispatched to Syria. The source stressed that whilst they had not been sent from Iran to Syria armed, they were armed upon arrival in the country.