BEIRUT: The motives behind the horrific quadruple murder in Lebanon of a mother and her three daughters are still unclear.
The Ansar murders, committed 20 days ago by Hussein Jamil Fayyad but uncovered last week, are described as the most serious killings in recent years in Lebanon.
Basma Abbas, along with her daughters Rima, Tala and Manal, were killed in a premeditated attack, sparking public anger in the country and calling for the execution of the two killers.
A Sunday morning funeral ceremony in Ansar was attended by the girls’ father and Abbas’ ex-husband, Zakaria Sawafi, who is also the town’s mayor.
Sawafi helped uncover the crime after raising the alarm over the disappearance of his daughters.
Along with Ansar residents, Sawafi lobbied for the arrest of a suspect who was last seen with the four victims on the last day they were seen alive. However, after being arrested, this suspect was released following an investigation.
According to new details, on March 2, the three siblings and Abbas left their home in Ansar on a stormy night accompanied by Fayyad, 35, who is believed to be the fiancé of one of the girls.
He was arrested and interrogated at Ansar about two weeks after the killings.
A relative of the victims said Nabatiyeh prosecutor Judge Ghada Abu Alwan questioned Fayyad but later released him.
A judicial source said preliminary investigations into Fayyad’s activities did not result in any charges.
But shortly after his release, Fayyad fled to Syria. Last week he was encouraged to return to Ansar by relatives when he was ambushed and arrested by Lebanese military intelligence.
During his interrogation, contradictions in his statement and phone data were discovered.
Fayyad later confessed to the crime, noting the involvement of a Syrian national accomplice and revealing the location of the four corpses.
On March 25, specialized teams went to inspect the place, a valley difficult to access because of its rugged terrain.
Four bodies were discovered in a cave between the towns of Ansar and Zrarieh.
Fayyad admitted that he carried out the mass murder of the family and buried them in the cave.
He lured the victims there under the guise of showing them land he planned to buy.
With his accomplice, he killed the victims using a hunting weapon and covered their corpses with stones, earth and concrete.
But despite Fayyad’s confession, he did not explain the motive for the killings.
On Sunday evening, activists posted photos of Hassan Al-Ghanaj, the Syrian accomplice in the crime, on social media.
Footage showed him bleeding after men from the Lebanese Nasser Al-Din family managed to lure him from Syrian territory to the Lebanese border through illegal crossings.
He was beaten up and handed over to the Lebanese authorities. Footage showed scenes of celebration in the Bekaa region of northern Lebanon following Al-Ghanaj’s arrest.
Fayyad’s family repudiated the killers in a statement, condemning the crime.
Safawi said he refused to accept “the law of the jungle and any retaliatory and irresponsible behavior”.
However, Ansar residents called on the Lebanese president to “actually execute the murderer, not sentence him to death and suspend the execution, as is the custom.”