Syria's ex-Prime Minister: Regime on the verge of collapse (+video)
Riad Hijab speaks out for the first time since he fled Syria to Jordan. He said that morals are down in the Assad regime and that there are cracks in the military.
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The captive then says that Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah gathered the men before they headed to Syria and told them that they should go to "support the Shiite regime and the Shiite army against Sunni gangs." The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
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Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, is a key backer of Assad's regime. The Syrian opposition has repeatedly accused it of sending fighters to Syria, which Hezbollah denies.
Hezbollah issued a statement early Tuesday saying it "categorically denies that Mr. Hassane Salim al-Mikdad is one of its members."
There have been several attacks and abductions in Syria of Shiites from Lebanon, Iran and Iraq over the past months that were blamed on Syrian rebels. In May, Syrian rebels captured 11 Lebanese Shiites shortly after they crossed from Turkey on their way to Lebanon.
Earlier this month, 48 Iranians were captured by Syrian rebels near Damascus. Rebels claim the Iranians include members of Tehran's Revolutionary Guard and were on a "reconnaissance mission" in the Syrian capital. Iran insists the men were on a religious pilgrimage.
The Lebanese are apparently held to try to pressure the government in Beirut to show greater support for the Syrian rebels — which is unlikely because of Hezbollah's strong influence and backing of Assad.
Also, many Iraqi Shiites, streaming back to their homeland in the past month to escape the conflict in Syria, reported a rash of attacks against their community, apparently by Sunni rebel gunmen. In July, 23 Iraqi Shiites were killed in Syria, some of them beheaded, according to the Washington-based Shiite Rights Watch. In one gruesome case, the U.N. said an Iraqi family of seven was killed at gunpoint in their Damascus apartment.
The motives for the attacks on Iraqis are unclear. They may be revenge against any Iraqi because the Shiite-led Iraqi government is seen as siding with Assad.
In other violence across Syria on Tuesday, activists reported clashes and shelling in the northern city of Aleppo, southern province of Daraa, suburbs of Damascus and the northwestern region of Idlib.
On Monday, gunmen abducted the correspondent of Iran's Arabic-language TV al-Alam in the central city of Homs Ahmad Sattouf, his wife told The Associated Press. She said he was taken from his office and his whereabouts are unknown.
Sattouf becomes the third journalist to be abducted in Syria over the past three days. Three other journalists were killed over the weekend in Damascus and its suburbs.
State-run news agency SANA said one of its reporters was wounded Monday while covering clashes in Aleppo.