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Syrian rebel says “five Hezbollah” members among abducted pilgrims

Free Syrian Army (FSA) Brigadier General Hussam al-Din Awak, who is one of the mediators involved in the issue of the Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria, said Sunday that among the abductees were five Hezbollah members.

During an interview with LBC television station, Awak explained what had happened to the bus carrying the Lebanese pilgrims in Aleppo.

Awak said that the leader of the FSA brigade that captured the Lebanese citizens in Aleppo had telephoned him and said that members of his unit stopped a bus carrying Lebanese.

The brigade leader added that “after the bus was stopped it turned out that five Hezbollah members were on it.”

According to the brigade leader, the bus was among other vehicles passing through Aleppo.

Awak told LBC that FSA chief colonel Riad al-Asaad “abandoned the brigade which belonged to him,” adding that when the unit called to inform Asaad about the incident, he replied: “I have nothing to do with this issue.”

Awak added: “At that moment I intervened and we will release [the Lebanese pilgrims].”

He also said that the brigade leader “had demands” without elaborating any further, adding that “there was a Libyan intervention in this issue through a person named Abu Mosaab al-Ghatous.”

Awak also revealed that “the abducted [Lebanese] citizen Hussein Hamoud is a Hezbollah member,” but he did not provide any other names.

Furthermore, he said that an audio recording of the Lebanese pilgrims will be released.

On Tuesday, the National News Agency (NNA) reported that 13 Lebanese Shia Muslims were kidnapped in Aleppo province as they were returning home by bus from a pilgrimage in Iran. Their families said that they were abducted by Syrian rebels. The Free Syrian Army, however, denied the accusation.

The NNA reported Friday that the pilgrims had been released and that Prime Minister Najib Mikati received a call from his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan who assured him they were "safe and on their way to Beirut."

However, the current location of the abductees is unknown amid conflicting reports.

The kidnapping took place amid heightened tension in Lebanon over the Syrian crisis.

-NOW Lebanon

For the latest developments on Syria, follow @NOW_Syria on Twitter or click here.