FNAYDEQ, Lebanon: Grief mixed with anger Wednesday as Army soldier Ali al-Sayyed, who was beheaded by Islamist militants, was laid to rest in his ancestral northern village. His family, local residents and the relatives of the other kidnapped soldiers who turned out for the funeral procession blamed the state for failing to do enough to save his life and return his fellow soldiers to their families.
Sayyed’s funeral motorcade drew thousands of mourners waving the Lebanese and Army flags as it made its way through the northern towns of Qalamoun, Mhammara and, finally, Sayyed’s hometown, Fnaydeq.
As the motorcade arrived in Fnaydeq, mourners fired shots in the air and Sayyed’s relatives carried his flag-wrapped coffin on their shoulders. Weeping women led the funeral procession through streets adorned with pictures of Sayyed in his military uniform.
Following the beheading of Sayyed and the release of five soldiers Sunday, jihadists are now holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captured during August’s clashes in Arsal. Many northern residents expressed anger and frustration over the seemingly stalled negotiations for their release.
“Our protest will continue and we will not stop blocking roads, even if it means cutting the north off from the rest of Lebanon,” said Nizam Moghit, the brother of Ibrahim Moghit, another hostage soldier. “We will not stand by doing nothing, waiting for the news that another soldier was killed.”
Sayyed’s relatives called on Lebanese citizens to “revolt” until the soldiers are released. Many of the relatives of captured soldiers, who have protested throughout the week, have also expressed anger with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Free Patriotic Movement head Michel Aoun, who have rejected negotiations with militants for the release of the remaining security personnel.
“Ali al-Sayyed was betrayed by his state,” said the late soldier’s uncle, Adnan Sayyed, reading a statement released by the soldier’s family. “He was killed because ... he is not the son of any of those lying politicians,” he added, accusing the state of failing to make the same effort it made for the Shiite pilgrims and the Maaloula nuns who were kidnapped by a different group of Syrian rebels.
Sayyed’s father, Ahmad, addressing the crowd, said he hoped his son’s blood would be “sacrificed for the sake of his [comrades’] freedom.”
He thanked the Lebanese for standing in solidarity with his family, saying his son was Lebanon’s martyr.
“He is no longer Ali Sayyed; he is Ali Lebanon now,” Sayyed’s father said during prayers for Sayyed at the town’s mosque.
“I forgot my pain today because of the support I saw from Lebanon, from Akkar to Beirut.”
A military officer was also present, representing Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.
“The martyr saw Lebanon, from its south to the north, from its mountains to its shore, as his home,” he said.
“Terrorists were mistaken when they thought that using such horrific ways to kill him ... would terrorize the Army and the Lebanese people because this barbaric manner only made us more committed and stronger to eliminate this phenomenon,” he added.
Last week, a man affiliated with ISIS posted a picture on social media showing the beheading of Sayyed, who was captured by ISIS during the five-day clashes between the Lebanese Army and Islamist militants in Arsal early August.
Days later, ISIS released a video showing armed men, one of them with a knife, speaking to the camera and standing behind a person they said was Sayyed.
He was blindfolded and had his hands ties behind his back.
The Lebanese Army confirmed Tuesday that DNA test results positively identified the body released to the Muslim Scholars Committee as that of Sayyed.
Both ISIS and the Nusra Front have called on the Lebanese government to release Islamist prisoners from Roumieh Prison in exchange for the captive security personnel.
While the government has implicitly rejected such a deal the demand has placed a spotlight on the fate of many as of yet untried prisoners being detained in Roumieh.
The Judicial Council responded to accusations that the trials of Islamist detainees in the prison have been stalled, arguing in a statement that they had picked up pace last year.
Most of the Islamist detainees were arrested over their involvement in the Nahr al-Bared clashes of summer 2007 between the Lebanese Army and the Fatah al-Islam militant group.
Earlier Wednesday, the head of the Association of Mayors in Akkar, Zaher al-Kassar, called on local residents to remain united even through difficult times.
“Lebanon remained [neutral] because our military remained unified ... Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed sacrificed his life for the sake of Lebanon,” Kassar said in a statement.
He praised the unity among the people of Akkar and Fnaydeq and called for a massive turnout for the Sayyed’s funeral.