BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Lebanese officials said on Friday they would bring to justice angry villagers who killed a murder suspect and strung his body up with a butcher’s hook in a revenge attack that has shocked the country.
The murder suspect, Mohammed Msallem, an Egyptian living in the southeastern mountain village of Ketermaya, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of killing an elderly couple and their two young granddaughters.
When police brought him to the scene of the crime on Thursday, an angry mob overwhelmed the policemen and beat Msallem with sticks and stones and stabbed him.
To cheers and applause, they stripped him to his underwear and socks, paraded him through the street and hoisted him up on an electricity pole with a butcher’s hook.
Lebanese troops eventually arrived and took away his corpse.
“These are actions that the human conscience cannot accept,” said Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar on Friday, who condemned the crime as barbaric and said it would blacken Lebanon’s image. “We know the names of 10 people and the courts have to do their work.”
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said he had ordered the Interior Minister and Justice Minister to go after the perpetrators and impose “severe punishments” on them, the National News Agency quoted him as saying.
Mobile phone footage of the lynching was aired on television and dominated newspaper coverage and talk shows on Friday.
Many of the villagers on Friday were unrepentant, others said authorities had to bear some responsibility for sending the suspect out in public with only a few policemen. “We thank the security forces for giving us the murderer as a gift so that we could seek revenge for our children with our own hands,” Khaled al-Sayyed, a grocery seller, told Reuters.
The Egyptian embassy in Beirut denounced the murder of Msallem “even though he was in the hands of justice”. Security sources said Msallem he had confessed to the crime but his motive was not clear.