Lebanon holds state funeral for slain soldiers

September 8, 2017
Journalists and mourners surround a car carrying the coffin of one of the 10 Lebanese soldiers who were abducted in 2014 and later killed by Islamic State militants react, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The bodies of the soldiers were recovered as part of a Hezbollah-brokered deal in late August which allowed the evacuation of the IS militants from the Lebanon-Syria border. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon on Friday bid farewell in a state funeral to 10 of its soldiers who were captured and killed by the Islamic State group, amid a national day of mourning in honor of the servicemen.

President Michel Aoun presided over the ceremony held at the Defense Ministry near Beirut, during which the soldiers were awarded Lebanon’s highest posthumous medals.

The bodies of the soldiers were recovered late last month following an army offensive to wipe out hundreds of IS militants who were occupying parts of the Lebanese-Syria border region since 2014.

The soldiers were kidnapped by the militants during a border raid in 2014. Two of them were killed that same year, while the fate of the remaining eight was unknown until late July. That’s when the militants, in a Hezbollah-negotiated deal, agreed to reveal their burial place in return for their evacuation from the border region to IS-held areas in Syria.

Mourners threw rice and flowers at the procession as it passed later in downtown Beirut, where relatives of the soldiers had staged a sit-in in a tent for the past three years, demanding to know the fate of their loved ones.