Kidnappers of Lebanese pilgrims: We will free them when civil state sees light
DUBAI - Rebels holding Lebanese Shiite pilgrims abducted last month in Syria said they will free them when a "civil state" sees the day in Syria but also left the door open to negotiations for their release, Al-Jazeera television reported Saturday.
"The guests will be handed over to the civil Syrian state after their case is reviewed by the new democratic parliament," the abductors said in a statement that accompanied a video aired on the Qatar-based channel.
But the kidnappers, who identified themselves in the statement as "all of Syria's rebels," left open the possibility of negotiating the release of the Lebanese men they are holding.
"But given current circumstances, handing them over to neighbouring countries could be discussed," they said in the statement.
On June 1 Al-Jazeera quoted a previously unknown armed group, the "Syrian Revolutionaries -- Aleppo Province", as saying they were holding the Lebanese pilgrims who went missing inside Syria on May 22.
In both videos aired by Al-Jazeera the abductors have demanded an apology from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
His Shiite militant group, which is the leading force in the current ruling coalition in Beirut, has close relations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its Iranian ally.
In the latest video, the abductors reiterated that their "11 Lebanese guests are well and in good health."
The tape also shows the men apparently in good health, sitting on low-rising couches and each one identifies himself saying he is "well."
One of the pilgrims is heard giving the date as being "June 5 or 6."
On June 5, their wives and daughters identified two of the kidnappers after seeing them in a television report about the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army on television.
The rebel army has denied any involvement in the kidnapping which took in northern Syria as the pilgrims were returning home to Lebanon by bus after a pilgrimage to Shiite holy sites in Iran.
The kidnappers had released the women and elderly men and kept 11 men in their custody.