Five Iranian technicians have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in the central Syrian city of Homs. The technicians, who are all electrical engineers, were part of a group of eight who were abducted while working on the city's power plant.
It is not clear who was behind the kidnappings, nor did the the semi-official Iranian Press TV news agency say when the kidnapping occurred, or quote a source for the information.
Just about two weeks ago, an oil pipeline leading from eastern Syria to the city, the main line that feeds the Homs refinery, was sabotaged. Homs has been repeatedly targeted by government forces determined to stamp out activism against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In recent days, foreign oil firms have closed their operations in Syria, as demand for exports slows to a trickle due to sanctions imposed on Damascus by the Europe Union, the U.S., Canada, Turkey and the Arab League.
Iranian Minister of Road and Urban Development Ali Nikzad announced on December 15 in a statement to the Iranian news agency the Islamic Republic's "willingness to help fulfill the economic needs of Syria amid the U.S.-led Western economic pressure on Damascus."
Syrian government officials blamed "outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups" for the violence that has taken over the country since mid-March, when civilian protesters joined the Arab Spring uprisings that swept across the region.
Assad instantly ordered government troops to crack down on the demonstrators, hoping to suppress the uprising, but instead the brutality of gvernment troops prompted activists to continue protests.
Eventually the conflict blossomed into a full-fledged civil war, as it did in Libya.
This week, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to condemn the Assad regime for the ongoing violence against its people. Nearly 100 Syrian Army deserters were mowed down earlier in the week by their former comrades while trying to flee their bases. More than 5,000 people have died in the violence perpetrated by government troops in their attempts to suppress the anti-government protests, and there appears to be no end in sight in the face of what has now developed into a full-fledged civil war.