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Blasts, gunfire hit Damascus in blow to Assad

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Abductions, too, have been on the rise.

Syrian rebels last week seized a bus carrying 48 Iranians in a Damascus suburb. Rebels claimed the men are military personnel, including some members of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, who were on a "reconnaissance mission" to help Assad’s crackdown.

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Iran, however, says the group was pilgrims visiting a Shiite shrine in Damascus.

A Paris-based Iranian opposition group challenged Tehran’s account by claiming Saturday at least seven of the captives as active members of the Revolutionary Guard. The statement by the People’s Mujahedeen Organization gave names and ranks — ranging from brigadier general to colonel — for those it claims are part of the group held by the Syrian rebels. The list describes all the alleged Revolutionary Guard members as being from Iran’s West Azerbaijan region along the borders with Iraq and Turkey.

The opposition group’s claims could not be independently verified. Iranian authorities had no immediate comment.

In Jordan, Canada’s foreign minister called the worsening situation in Syria "tremendously horrifying" during a trip Saturday to Jordan’s first refugee camp near its northern border with Syria. John Baird said Canada will donate $1.5 million to the World Food Program in Jordan and $2 million for medical supplies for doctors inside Syria.

Worries about spillover chaos from the Syrian civil war have been growing among neighboring countries, particularly in Lebanon where the mix of factions includes loyal Assad supporters such as Hezbollah and others.

Lebanon’s official news agency said a military court indicted a pro-Syrian former minister along with one of Assad’s top security aides of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon. The National News Agency says the indictment against Joseph Samaha, a former information minister, followed his arrest Thursday. Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, appointed last month by Assad to head the National Security Council, was indicted in absentia.

Samaha is one of the most ardent Lebanese supporters of the Syrian regime. According to the indictment, Samaha allegedly plotted the assassination of political and religious figures in Lebanon using explosives furnished by Mamlouk.

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