BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – A military band played somber music Tuesday as the remains of Michel Seurat, a French history researcher kidnapped by Muslim militants here in 1985, were handed over to the French ambassador.
Seurat’s remains were accidentally found by construction workers digging at a rest stop on the road to Beirut airport in the Lebanese capital’s Shiite-dominated southern suburbs.
Recent DNA tests confirmed the remains belonged to Seurat. The Frenchman was kidnapped May 22, 1985. He was among dozens of Westerners abducted in Lebanon during the 1980s when the 1975-90 civil war was at its height. His kidnappers, the pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim group Islamic Jihad, claimed on March 5, 1986 that they had killed him in retaliation for France’s extradition to Baghdad of two
pro-Iranian Iraqi dissidents. But hostages who were later freed said Seurat died of either hepatitis or cancer.
At a brief ceremony held at Beirut’s police headquarters, a military band played somber music as well as the French and Lebanese national anthems as honor guards from the Lebanese internal security forces carried a coffin containing Seurat’s remains, wrapped in a red, white and blue French flag.
French Ambassador Bernard Aimier formally received the coffin and later headed to Beirut airport, where Seurat’s widow, Marie, was to arrive to take delivery of her husband’s remains for burial in France.
Seurat’s case resurfaced several months ago when the French Foreign Ministry notified Seurat’s widow that his remains might have been found and said tests would be carried out. French authorities later confirmed that his remains had been found.
Most of the Westerners kidnapped in the 1980s in Lebanon were released, but the fate of several of them remains unknown.