An atmosphere of great anger and deep sadness prevailed Sunday in the village of Ansar in southern Lebanon during the funeral of a mother and her three daughters, who were kidnapped and then murdered, and whose remains were found Friday in a cave. Calls for revenge and the execution of the alleged killer were made during the funeral procession, which included MPs from the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, as well as the Shiite Jaafarite mufti, Ahmad Kabalan.
Bassima Abbas, the former wife of the mokhtar (official responsible for records) of Ansar, Zakaria Safawi, and her three daughters were last seen 27 days ago in the company of a 36-year-old man from the Fayad family, who is also from Ansar. The victims’ remains were found on Friday in a cave located in a citrus orchard in the area, the entrance of which was blocked by stones and concrete blocks, after a search was launched the previous day.
On Friday evening, the army issued a statement explaining that H. Fayad was arrested on March 2 by its intelligence services, after being suspected of kidnapping Bassima Abbas and her three daughters, Rima, Tala and Manal. The suspect reportedly “admitted to kidnapping the victims with an accomplice of Syrian nationality, who is still on the run, identified by his initials, H. Gh,” and “admitted to transporting the four women to a cave on the outskirts of the village, where the crime occurred.”
Call for murderer's execution
On Sunday, residents of Ansar and the surrounding villages gathered in front of the victims’ home, where their portraits were hung. They walked through the streets of the village carrying their coffins, while other villagers sang religious hymns from their balconies. Angry shouts were heard from men demanding revenge.
“The assassin should have been executed in the village square before the funeral,” said one participant, according to our correspondent in the region. He called on “the president of the republic and the authorities to take swift action to punish the assassin,” adding, “On behalf of the people of the village, we call for the execution of all those who participated in this crime.”
A relative of the family, Abu Ahmad al-Safaoui, doubted that the alleged perpetrator and his Syrian accomplice had kidnapped the four women for ransom, a motive he said was put forward by Fayad. “The kidnapping took place at 8:30 p.m. and the murder an hour later. Someone who wants a ransom does not kill immediately after the kidnapping,” Safaoui said.
The investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy is ongoing.
This article originally appeared in French in L’Orient Today.
This article has been corrected to reflect that Zakaria Safawi is the mokhtar, not the mayor, of Ansar.