Bodies 'Likely' Belonging to Captive Troops Found after Army Declares Ceasefire

Bookmark this
August 28, 2017

Lebanese security forces on Sunday found six bodies “likely” belonging to Lebanese troops abducted by the Islamic State group in 2014, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim announced.

Speaking at the sit-in tent of the relatives of the kidnapped soldiers in Riad al-Solh Square, Ibrahim said two more bodies were expected to be unearthed by the Lebanese army and General Security agency.

Ibrahim said IS fighters who had surrendered led his agency and the Lebanese army to the remains.

“We’re almost certain” that these bodies belong to captive troops, Ibrahim told reporters, although he called for awaiting DNA tests for the final confirmation.

“This file has been closed with a dark chapter… and we have had unconfirmed information on the fate of the captive troops since mid-February 2015,” Ibrahim added, addressing the families of the soldiers.

“In my name, and in the name of the Army Commander, I address a great salutation to the families of the troops over their resilience and patience and they should be proud of their sons,” Ibrahim added.

Relatives of the hostages had gathered for hours in the blistering heat on Sunday to await news of their loved ones, sitting in tents they erected three years ago during protests to pressure the government to find the troops.

Ibrahim also noted that the corpses were found “in Lebanese territory,” while saying that Lebanese authorities do not have information about the fate of Samir Kassab, a Lebanese cameraman who went missing in Syria, and two Syrian bishops believed to be kidnapped by extremists.

“We do not and will not bargain and we’re in the position of the triumphant party who can impose its own conditions,” Ibrahim went on to say.

He had earlier in the day announced that the fate of the Lebanese troops would be unveiled on Sunday.

The announcement follows a declaration by the Lebanese army on Sunday morning that it was pausing its offensive against IS militants along the border with Syria to allow for negotiations on the captive troops.

The armed forces launched their campaign against IS militants entrenched in the mountainous outskirts of the towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa on Lebanon's eastern border on August 19.

Nine troops were believed to still be held by IS after militants overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August 2014 and kidnapped around 30 soldiers and police.

Four were killed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds, while 16 were released in a prisoner swap with al-Nusra Front in December 2015.

The army had said the remaining missing troops were its "top concern" in its offensive against an estimated 600 IS fighters in the hilly border region.

An army source told the AFP news agency on Sunday that its command had agreed to IS' request for a ceasefire in order to get more information on the missing soldiers.

"Abbas Ibrahim has been authorized to negotiate with them for information on the kidnapped soldiers," the source said.

"In the meantime, the battle has stopped. If we find any ulterior motives or if we are dissatisfied with the solution, the army will continue its fight," the source added.

Hizbullah launched its own simultaneous attack against IS from the Syrian side of the border in an area known as west Qalamun.

Hizbullah's War Media channel also announced a freeze in fighting on Sunday.

It said the unilateral pause was "in the framework of a comprehensive agreement to end the battle in west Qalamun against Daesh (IS)."

Two sources with close knowledge of Hizbullah's operations in the area told AFP that fighters from the group were searching west Qalamun for the bodies of the missing soldiers.

The army says its nine-day assault has squeezed IS into 20 square kilometers out of 120 held by the jihadists in the outskirts of Baalbek and al-Qaa.

Six soldiers have been killed since the start of the assault, which the army has insisted is not being coordinated with Hizbullah.

Syria's al-Ikhbariya TV quoted an unnamed Syrian field commander as saying the militants have been driven out of some 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) in Syria. Syrian media say around 400 militants and their families are expected to be evacuated toward Deir Ezzor, a city in eastern Syria that is mostly controlled by IS.

The Central Military Media, an outlet run jointly by Hizbullah and the Syrian army, said the Sunday cease-fire will pave the way for a comprehensive agreement to end the fighting in the area.

And a Lebanese military source told AFP IS would quit territory it held in eastern Lebanon.

"When this happens, Daesh's military presence in Lebanon -- its control of geographic territory -- will be finished," the source said.

But the source warned that IS still had "sleeper cells" in Lebanon.

Source: Naharet


Recent Articles

The United Australia Lebanese Movement Australia Day Award Ceremony

The United Australia Lebanese Movement Australia Day Award Ceremony

in Community News

The United Australia Lebanese Movement (UALM) held its 22nd consecutive Australia Day Award Ceremony on 22/01/2020 endorsed by the Australia Day Council of NSW. The UALM is the only organisation outside of Local Government able to hold such an event.

January 26, 2020

Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, Water Cannons Fired at Stone-Throwing Protesters in Beirut

Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, Water Cannons Fired at Stone-Throwing Protesters in Beirut

in Local News

Security forces on Sunday fired rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons at stone-throwing protesters in central Beirut, a day after almost 400 people were injured in the fiercest clashes yet...

January 20, 2020 By Naharnet Newsdesk

Lebanon ranks first in Huawei's Mideast ICT competition

Lebanon ranks first in Huawei's Mideast ICT competition

in World News, Local News

Lebanon ranked the first in Huawei's Middle East ICT competition which took place over the weekend in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, a Huawei statement said Monday. A total of 13 teams of 39 students from across the Middle East competed in the final.

December 3, 2019

Hariri Announces Resignation, Urges Political Parties to Protect Lebanon

Hariri Announces Resignation, Urges Political Parties to Protect Lebanon

in Local News

Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday submitted his government’s resignation to President Michel Aoun, on the 13th day of an unprecedented popular revolt against the entire political class.

October 30, 2019 By Naharnet Newsdesk