Iran's foreign minister says some of the 48 Iranians kidnapped by Syrian rebels are retired members of the Revolutionary Guards and the army and were in Damascus on a religious pilgrimage.
Wednesday, Iran's ISNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as denying that the Iranians have any current military connection.
The rebel Free Syrian Army describes those kidnapped Saturday as Revolutionary Guards on a "reconnaissance mission."
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes in Aleppo Wednesday, which it described as the most violent since rebels claimed control of part of the city.
Rights group Amnesty International has released satellite images of Aleppo and the surrounding areas, showing what it says are signs of increased use of heavy weapons. The group says the images raise "urgent concerns" about an impending assault on the area. It also warns both rebels and government forces that attacks against civilians will be "clearly documented."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to purge his country of what he called "terrorists."