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Lebanon to hold state funeral for soldiers killed by IS

DNA tests showing the bodies belonged to the missing soldiers were made public [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 September, 2017

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Lebanon will hold a state funeral on Friday for the nine soldiers killed by IS militants after they were kidnapped three years ago, Lebanese media reported on Wednesday.

Lebanon is expected to hold a state funeral on Friday for the nine soldiers killed by Islamic State [IS] group militants after they were kidnapped three years ago, Lebanese media reported on Wednesday.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri are to attend, alongside a number of other high-ranking officials.

The DNA tests showing the recovered bodies belonged to the missing soldiers were made public on Wednesday morning, a statement by the Lebanese army said.

"The bodies are those of the soldiers," Justice Minister Salim Jreissati told Lebanon's The Daily Star. A state funeral is expected on Friday, the daily added.

The troops were among 30 soldiers and police kidnapped by IS and al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate when they overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August 2014.

Four were killed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds while 16 were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015. The fate of nine soldiers remained unknown.

Their families pitched tents three years ago in downtown Beirut to pressure the government to find the troops.

Late last month, authorities in Lebanon said they located the remains along the restive eastern border with Syria.

Despite delays in officially announcing the identity of the bodies, officials believed they belonged to the missing soldiers.

"The fact that [certain] people pointed out the locations of the bodies and they were found in military attire makes it a high chance that the bodies are those of soldiers," Defence Minister Yaacoub Sarraf told The Daily Star.

Sarraf declined to give details over when their funeral would be held, but said "it is a duty to carry out a state funeral for martyred soldiers, their families and the country".

The Cabinet's secretariat-general is expected to declare on Wednesday a national day of mourning on the day of the funeral.

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