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Iran aids in release of Turkish journalists from Syria

Mourners carry the coffin of Dima Farah, who was killed in Thursday's suicide bomb attack, during her funeral at the Mar Elias monastery in Damascus May 12, 2012. A video posted online in the name of a shadowy militant group is claiming responsibility for the twin suicide bombings in the Syrian capital this week that killed 55 people.

KHALED AL-HARIRI/Reuters/KHALED AL-HARIRI/Reuters

Two Turkish journalists who went missing while reporting on the uprising in Syria two months ago were released on Saturday with Iran's help, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced.

The release of the pair demonstrated Iran's influence with its ally Syria, which lost Turkey's friendship when it cracked down on pro-democracy protests that erupted last year. Iran and Syria, both isolated by the West, have stuck by each other.

The two journalists were flown to Tehran, where they told Turkey's Anatolian news agency they were in good health and looking forward to being reunited with their families.

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In remarks on his Twitter account, Mr. Davutoglu said the Turkish government was sending a plane to bring them home. His Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi had told him earlier that the journalists had been freed, he added.

Adem Ozkose, 34, a reporter with Milat, a small Islamic-leaning startup newspaper, and freelance cameraman Hamit Coskun, 21, went missing in early March after sneaking across the border into Idlib, a northwestern province that has been the focus of an offensive by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Hopes for their release soared after Turkish officials revealed on Thursday that Iran was acting as a go-between. It was not immediately clear who had been holding them.

Turkey has closed its embassy in Damascus and halted flights to and from Syria.

Mr. al-Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Iran is mostly Shi'ite, while most Turks and Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

Some 23,000 registered Syrian refugees live in camps in Turkey along its border with Syria, and an estimated 2,000 more are staying with Turkish relatives.

In other news, a video posted online in the name of a shadowy militant group is claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the Syrian capital this week that killed 55 people.

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A group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front says the bombing was in response to attacks on residential areas by the regime of President Bashar Assad.

"We fulfilled our promise to respond with strikes with explosions," a distorted voice says.

The video's authenticity could not be independently verified. The Al-Nusra Front has claimed past bombings in Syria through posts on militant websites. Little is known about the group.

Thursday's bombing in Damascus raised fears that al-Qaeda-linked extremists are joining the anti-Assad fight.

With a report from The Associated Press

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