Lebanon declares national day of mourning for slain soldiers

Staff and local media reports


Lebanese activists hold a candlelight vigil in Beirut on August 28th, after authorities announced they had located human remains which DNA testing on Wednesday revealed belong to nine soldiers abducted and killed by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Anwar Amro/AFP]

The Lebanese government on Wednesday (September 6th) declared Friday a national day of mourning after announcing that DNA tests had confirmed the identity of nine soldiers abducted and killed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Lebanese media reported.

Lebanese army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun on Wednesday informed relatives of the servicemen that DNA tests matched the remains of bodies retrieved last week from the outskirts of the north-eastern border town of Arsal, Naharnet reported.

Aoun held a closed-door meeting with the relatives at the Ministry of Defence, with Defence Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf also attending.

The results were expected to have been revealed during a Wednesday press conference, according to an Army Command statement. However, they were instead revealed in a closed meeting with families of the soldiers.

Eight bodies were recovered from Wadi al-Debb on August 27th, while the body of a ninth soldier was located Tuesday.

The nine soldiers, who had been missing since August 2nd, 2014, were among 30 soldiers taken captive by ISIS and al-Nusra Front (ANF) following violent battles in Arsal.

Of that number, 16 were released in 2015, ANF executed four, and another died of his wounds.

The soldiers were still wearing their military uniforms when they were found.

Lebanon will lay the martyrs to rest on Friday.

The army leadership is planning to hold an official national farewell day for the nine soldiers in the Ministry of Defence in the presence of state officials, according to various reports.

President Michel Aoun, Lebanese Army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun and relatives of the slain soldiers are expected to deliver speeches on the occasion.

Funerals for the servicemen will be held in their respective hometowns.

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