Iran’s English-language state station Press TV reported that 48 Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped Saturday in Damascus by "armed terrorist groups," according to the Iranian consul in the Syrian capital.
"Armed groups abducted 48 Iranian pilgrims on their way (by bus) to the airport," Iran's public broadcaster IRIB reported.
"There is no information on the fate of the pilgrims. Embassy and Syrian officials are trying to trace the kidnappers," the source added.
For its part, Syrian state TV says foreign-sponsored insurgents kidnapped the pilgrims, who were in a bus in the Damascus suburbs and said the relevant parties were dealing with the situation, Al Arabiya news eported.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians visit each year the tomb of Zaynab, the daughter of Imam Ali, which is located in Damascus.
Dozens of pilgrims and Iranian engineers were kidnapped in December 2011 and January 2012. The majority of them were released several months later.
Earlier on Saturday the Iran's Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said that the arming of Syria's rebels would have "very bad implications in the region."
He added that "the region will face a major crisis if foreign forces, currently (covertly) present in Syria, enter the scene" and intervene militarily.
"The losers of such a crisis will be the Westerners and pro-Zionist countries," he predicted.
However, Saturday’s kidnapping came as clashes intensified since Friday night in Damascus and Aleppo.
The sounds of shelling and small arms fire were heard throughout the night in Damascus, and witnesses said that the army had launched an offensive against rebels holed up in the populated areas of Tadamun, Dummar, Dal al-Shouk, Jobar and Arbeen.
SANA news reported that an army general commanding forces loyal to the regime claimed Saturday that government forces have retaken the capital, adding that the situation is "excellent and stable." He confirmed that government forces repelled "terrorist groups" trying to enter the center, killing or wounding many of them.
In Aleppo city, the district of Salahuddin was again bombed by regime forces as some 20,000 Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships and tanks are storming rebel-held areas.
The Free Syrian Army claim to control more than half of Aleppo.
On the other hand, the Syrian TV said that the news broadcast by certain channels were "absolutely false." It, however, confirmed that government forces repelled terrorist groups that tried to enter the center, and killed or wounded many of them. Official sources in Aleppo said that many of the defenders are fleeing their positions for safety.