Syrian rebels say holding Iranian fighter, seeking swap

BEIRUT - A mainstream Syrian rebel group said on Monday they were seeking to swap an Iranian taken captive in the southwestern province of Deraa last month for women held in Syrian government jails.
Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has sent mainly military experts to help him in his almost four-year-long battle with mostly Sunni Muslim rebels.
Last month several insurgent groups including the Sham Unified Front launched a major offensive in the province of Deraa in which they seized several military posts including a strategic army base in the Sheikh Maskeen area.
The group's leader Abu Ahmad said his rebels captured the Iranian as he was fighting alongside government forces in the province, and killed nine other soldiers as they took over a power station near Sheikh Maskeen in the province.
"We questioned him through a translator, he came to Syria last year, he is a 30-year-old and he comes from (the Iranian) city of Qom," Abu Ahmad, who was not using his real name, told Reuters.
"We are questioning him on how Iranians operate in Syria. Our priority right now is a swap (of him) for our prisoners. We have so many women in government prisons and we want to swap him for (some) them."
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