Lebanon to identify exhumed bodies

The Lebanese military has begun DNA testing to identify 13 bodies unearthed in a military compound in Yarze, a town overlooking the capital Beirut.

    Aoun had waged a war against Syria's presence in Lebanon

    Twelve of the 13 bodies were in military uniform, possibly indicating they were soldiers serving under then General Michel Aoun in October 1990.


    The 13th body was burned beyond recognition.


    Aoun had been engaged in a seven-month "war of liberation" against Syria's presence in Lebanon when the Syrian offensive overran his forces and he was forced to flee the presidential palace.


    The families of 30 Lebanese soldiers, who were listed as missing in action (MIA) during the Syrian offensive, were asked to submit to the tests by the Ministry of Defence.


    Controversial request


    The military's request, however, has created controversy and division among the families of the missing, many of whom say their sons are alive in detention centres in Syria.


    Aoun went into exile after Syrian
    troops overran his forces in 1990

    Marlene Nakhoul, sister of a missing soldier, told Aljazeera.net her family decided to do the DNA test, but only to prove that he is not among the exhumed bodies.


    "My brother is still alive," she said.

    "We're just doing the test to prove that none of the bodies belongs to my brother and to tell the government there are still soldiers locked up in Syrian prisons," she said, adding that a former prisoner in Syria said he saw her brother in 1993.

    But Violette Nassif, mother of soldier Johnny Nassif, refused to take the test.


    "I saw my son," she said about her one-time visit to see her son in a Syrian prison in the early 1990s.


    "And I have kept the visiting card that proves I had visited him."


    Sonia Eid, the head of the committee representing the parents of the detainees, also refused to undergo a DNA test, saying the tests should be carried out only when unimpeded access to Syrian prisons is granted.


    There are 641 Lebanese nationals believed to be in Syrian prisons, according to Ghazi Aad, the head of the committee for the Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE).

    Red Cross eyewitness

    The exhumation of the bodies came after a plea from Aoun, who returned to Lebanon last May after 14 years of exile in France.


    His plea was based on information given by a Red Cross volunteer, who said he helped bury the bodies of soldiers 15 years ago.

    Meanwhile, preliminary efforts to identify the bodies have been made, the army command said in a statement.

    Samples taken from the corpses were already sent to medical laboratories for DNA testing, the statement added.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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