BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of angry mourners on Wednesday walked alongside the body of a Lebanese soldier beheaded by Islamic militants in a furious funeral march, accusing the government of neglect for failing to negotiate his safe release.
Sgt. Ali Sayid went missing around the same time that some two dozen soldiers and police were seized by militants from Syria who overran the border town of Arsal for several days last month. The incursion was the most serious spillover yet of the Syrian civil war and escalated tensions in Lebanon, which is bitterly split over the conflict.
The captured security men are being held by different militant groups, including the Islamic State group, which beheaded Sayid and posted photos from the killing online last week. Al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, also took part in the raid, in which several Lebanese soldiers and policemen were killed.
Sayid was to be buried in his hometown of Muhamara in northern Lebanon. Mourners fired guns in the air as they marched with the body from the nearby town of Fnaydek, just hours after the military confirmed Sayid's identity. His remains were handed over to the Lebanese army on Monday.
"He was betrayed by all the politicians, all of them! By parliamentarians and officials, and by the country. He was sold for a cheap price!" thundered his father at the funeral, in a tearful speech carried on Lebanese television.
Sayid, a Sunni, disappeared from Lebanon around the time the Sunni militants attacked Arsal, but the circumstances of his disappearance remain unclear. He later appeared in a video announcing his defection from the army and his loyalty to the Islamic State. But the soldier may have spoken under duress.
Later, another video surfaced of Sayid being decapitated by militants of the Islamic State group, according to photos posted on social networks on August 28.
Families have demonstrated throughout Lebanon demanding the captives' release. There are an estimated 14 policemen and 12 soldiers still in militant custody, according to a count by rights group Human Rights Watch.
Malla reported from Fnaydek, Lebanon.