Mass Graves Discovered Next to Syria's Former Military Intelligence Command in East Lebanon, 26 Skeletons Exhumed
Retrieved from Naharnet on Dec 4, 2005
Mass graves have been discovered next to the Anjar headquarters of Syria's former military intelligence command amid reports Sunday that Lebanese authorities would bring the issue before international humanitarian organizations as a crime against humanity.
Although Lebanon did not squarely accuse Syria of responsibility, Beirut media reports raised the charge by laying particular emphasis on the locality of the two mass graves that have been unearthed so close to the former headquarters of Syria's military intelligence apparatus in east Lebanon's Bekaa valley, which was closed down last April.
Troops operating with bulldozers since Friday have exhumed the remains of 26 human skeletons with traces of underwear clothes still sticking to the bones from 2 mass graves - 1 containing twenty bodies and another six remains. An Nahar noted that the Lebanese had hardly overcome the horrors of the mass grave discovered at a Lebanese defense ministry compound last month where the remains of seventeen soldiers and four civilians were unearthed.
An Nahar said a movement is already underway in parliament to bring the discovery of the mass graves before United Nations humanitarian organizations as well as the all-Swiss International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).
An Nahar also said authorities would be concentrating on the identities of the victims in coming days particularly to ascertain whether missing Katayeb security chief Boutros Khawand was among them.
Anjar Residents last week tipped Lebanese authorities about the presence of mass graves in the vicinity, saying as many as 50 corpses were buried near the Syrian intelligence command headquarters.
An Nahar said the army launched a search for the mass graves on Friday exhuming 26 bodies so far while the search operation would be extended to the coming week.
Lebanese soldiers barred journalists Saturday from approaching the grave site, only allowing photographers to take pictures of them refilling the earth pit with bulldozers after their work was done. Journalists, however, saw troops collecting the remains in at least 12 black bags. The remains were then taken for DNA testing.
The remains, including bones, teeth and skulls, were taken from the mass grave on the Nabi Azir hilltop position formerly occupied by Syrian soldiers, about one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the former headquarters of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon.
"This is the biggest proof that the crime is very big and touches the lives of hundreds of Lebanese families," said Ghazi Aad, director of Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile, better known as SOLIDE. It works for the release of Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails and learning the fate of missing people.
Aad called for an international investigation into the mass graves and other killings allegedly carried out while Syrian troops were in Lebanon.
Although there are no exact figures, human rights groups and families say they have evidence of more than 176 Lebanese still in Syrian jails, many of whom have been there for more than a decade. About 17,000 Lebanese are unaccounted for from the civil war.(Naharnet-AP)(AFP photo outside and AP photo inside show Lebanese inspectors watching a bulldozer being used in search for more bodies)