AMMAN - Syrian forces have released the bodies of seven young men killed in a military raid on a conservative Sunni district of Damascus in exchange for an army officer abducted by rebels, opposition sources in the capital said on Sunday.

The army had refused until Friday to release the bodies of the seven, who were killed on May 5 in a sweep of the Barzeh neighborhood, prompting the rebels to abduct the officer, Youssef Zaghbour, days later, they said.

The area in the north of the capital has been the scene of regular street demonstrations against President Bashar Assad's rule.

Free Syrian Army rebels have lately been finding support in Barzeh, with more of the population turning to armed struggle to counter the military crackdown on the 14-month protest movement.

"Zaghbour was not hurt. The funerals of the seven martyrs took place in Barzeh yesterday and today, drawing large crowds," one of the sources said from Barzeh.

Live video footage broadcast by activists on Sunday purportedly showed the coffins of three of the seven, covered in red and white roses, being carried by mourners.

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