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Akkar reels from beheading claim

The mother of Lebanese soldier Ali al-Sayyed, left, is comforted by a relative in Fnaydeq, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

FNAYDEQ, Lebanon: Shock rippled through the village of Fnaydeq Friday as residents struggled to come to terms with circulating pictures that allegedly show the beheading of Ali al-Sayyed, an Army soldier captured earlier this month during clashes in Arsal with Islamist groups.

Sayyed, who hails from the small village in the northern Akkar district, was reportedly killed at the hands of ISIS, according to a Twitter user who shared the pictures and claimed to be part of the group.

“Even monsters don’t dare to execute their prey in this way,” lawyer Mohammad al-Baarainy said.

Sayyed is one of 11 Army soldiers captured by ISIS following five days of fighting at the beginning of August. The Nusra Front, also involved in this month’s clashes, is said to be holding 15 Internal Security Forces captives and three Army hostages.

Baarainy, who lives near Sayyed’s parents, said they were holding on to hope that their son might still be alive.

“We couldn’t communicate with his parents, [rather] we left them in the house and we didn’t sleep all night because of their sobbing and crying,” he said. Relatives of Sayyed gathered at the family’s home, trying to calm down his shocked mother.

Sayyed, described as a “good man with high morals,” enrolled in the Army 16 years ago and fought in the 2007 Nahr al-Bared clashes, which pitted the Lebanese Army against Fatah al-Islam militants. His father is a mukhtar in Fnaydeq and three of his brothers are also currently enlisted in the Army.

“He [Sayyed] fought valiantly in Nahr al-Bared and was very dedicated to the military institution,” Baarainy said.

One of the hardest things for locals is the doubt and confusion over whether the video is true.

Sayyed’s relatives said the features of the person seem to point to it being Sayyed, but as ISIS have not released an official statement about the execution, questions about the time and location of the possible murder still hang in the air.

The only claim for the pictures so far has come from a Twitter user claiming to be an ISIS member.

“Now you know who are the lions of ISIS,” Abou Misaab Hafid al-Baghdadi wrote on the social media website, linking to a gruesome picture that allegedly shows Sayyed’s beheading.

“Your brothers in ISIS behead an Army soldier after Hezbollah attempted to disrupt negotiations. And if this [disruption] happens again, then another [soldier] will be beheaded,” he tweeted.

The Army said it was checking the authenticity of the photos.

Sheikh Adnan Amama, from the Muslim Scholars Committee, which until last week had been with the Islamist militants as part of a delegation negotiating on behalf of the government to free the kidnapped security personnel, said his group could neither confirm nor deny the news of Sayyed’s beheading.

“The parents can’t take it anymore and they’re very angry,” Zakaria said. “They should at least be reassured.”

In the nearby village of Tikrit, the hometown of another captured soldier, Ahmad Gieh, residents were anxiously monitoring the news.

“Each official in the government is responsible, whether Sayyed’s death is confirmed or whether another soldier is hurt,” one of Tikrit’s residents said. “They were totally neglected and they are the victims of stalling. Silence will not help us anymore.”

Unease has been further heightened by talk that some are seeking to expel Syrian refugees in the area and attack positions where they gather.

Tensions reached such a peak that Future Movement MP Khaled Daher held an urgent meeting with mayors of the district to discourage any retaliatory violence.

But Sayyed’s uncles insisted that despite the tragedy of the situation, they would not permit anything that might disrupt the peace.

“We are the children of the state and if the news about [Sayyed] is right, we will consider our son a martyr who fell unfairly but for Lebanon’s sake,” an uncle said.

“We will not accept chaos and we will follow up on the situation in the field, but we will not endanger peace and whoever wants to create strife among the residents of Akkar will certainly be killed.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 30, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

Shock rippled through the village of Fnaydeq Friday as residents struggled to come to terms with circulating pictures that allegedly show the beheading of Ali al-Sayyed, an Army soldier captured earlier this month during clashes in Arsal with Islamist groups.

Sayyed, who hails from the small village in the northern Akkar district, was reportedly killed at the hands of ISIS, according to a Twitter user who shared the pictures and claimed to be part of the group.

Sayyed is one of 11 Army soldiers captured by ISIS following five days of fighting at the beginning of August. The Nusra Front, also involved in this month's clashes, is said to be holding 15 Internal Security Forces captives and three Army hostages.

Sayyed, described as a "good man with high morals," enrolled in the Army 16 years ago and fought in the 2007 Nahr al-Bared clashes, which pitted the Lebanese Army against Fatah al-Islam militants.

In the nearby village of Tikrit, the hometown of another captured soldier, Ahmad Gieh, residents were anxiously monitoring the news.


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