The head of Lebanon’s internal security agency says eight Lebanese soldiers who had been in captivity of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group since 2014 are almost certainly dead.
General Abbas Ibrahim told reporters gathered in downtown Beirut on Sunday that the army had retrieved the remains of six soldiers so far and was digging for the other two.
He said DNA testing would be carried out to determine the identities of the remains.
“We have removed the remains of six bodies. We are expecting the number to go up to eight,” Ibrahim said, adding, “We believe that these remains belong to the soldiers.”
Lebanon’s army earlier announced a ceasefire in its operation against Daesh terrorists near the country’s border with Syria to help start negotiations over the fate of the captive soldiers.
The ceasefire took effect at 7:00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) on Sunday, a week into the offensive. The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah and the Syrian army had also announced a ceasefire in their offensive against Daesh on the Syrian side, namely the west mountainous region of Qalamoun .
The Lebanese soldiers were among 30 troops and police kidnapped by Daesh and terrorists linked to al-Nusra Front, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda, in August 2014 when they briefly overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal.
Four were killed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds while 16 were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015.
The Takfiri group currently holds nine Lebanese soldiers but on Sunday Ibrahim only spoke of eight bodies.
The Lebanese army says it has captured most of a mountainous area on the border with Syria during an operation aimed at purging the region of Daesh terrorists.
Backed by Hezbollah, the army on August 19 began a long-anticipated operation in Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border. The push is meant to clear an area of 120 kilometers from elements of Daesh.
The army operation came shortly after Hezbollah launched its own battle in Jurud Arsal. Hezbollah managed to inflict huge losses on terrorists linked to al-Nusra Front.
Al-Nusra admitted defeat after six days of fierce fighting and handed over five Hezbollah fighters in return for evacuation of its members to a region in neighboring Syria.
Daesh and other terror outfits broke into Lebanon in 2014, taking over the border town of Arsal. They were ousted from the town, but started taking positions close to Ras Baalbeck, another border town, which has been the focus of the recent counterterrorism operations.