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Iranians freed by Syrian rebels arrive in Damascus

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 9, 2013 at 7:58 a.m.

— A group of 48 Iranians freed by Syrian rebels after months in captivity have arrived at a Damascus hotel.

Officials say they were released after President Bashar Assad’s regime promised to free hundreds of detainees in the first major prisoner swap of the country’s civil war.

The men arrived Wednesday at the Sheraton hotel in several vans escorted by Syrian security forces.

Iran’s ambassador in Damascus Mohammad Riza Shibani greeted them with flowers.

Rebels claimed the captives were linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, but Tehran has denied that, saying the men were pilgrims visiting Shiite religious sites in Syria.

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