BEIRUT: Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi dismissed media reports Tuesday that the bodies of two soldiers recently killed in Arsal had been mutilated during the incident.
“There is no truth in the news that sharp weapons were used to mutilate the bodies of the soldiers,” Kahwagi told reporters after meeting with President Michel Sleiman.
Kahwagi met with the president and briefed him on the measures taken by the Army to preserve security in the village and the progress in pursuing the individuals who were allegedly involved in the attack.
Capt. Pierre Bashalani and Sgt. Ibrahim Zahraman were killed in an ambush by gunmen on the outskirts of Arsal when an Army unit was in pursuit of Khaled Hmayyed, who was wanted and was also killed in the incident.
The head of Army Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel, has said that the bodies of the two soldiers were put on display “in celebration,” and that other soldiers were physically assaulted.
Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida referred the Arsal case to Military Judge Fadi Sawwan and urged him to begin interrogations. Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Sawwan would review the case and interrogate Wednesday the only two suspects currently in custody.
Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr charged 34 people over the incident in Arsal Monday. Saqr also requested to speak to Arsal’s mayor Ali al-Hujairy as a witness in the case.
According to judicial sources, the suspects are charged with the killings of Sgt. Zahraman and Capt. Bashalani, burning and disabling military vehicles and damaging both public and private property.
Kahwagi also said that Arsal is not “besieged” by the Army and soldiers are respected by residents of the village.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2013, on page 3.