The remains of French soldiers killed in Lebanon in 1925 that had been found and kept by a local family were handed over to the French embassy in a ceremony Thursday.
Consul General Michel Pipelier and the military attache, Colonel Michel Coullomb, attended the ceremony in this mainly-Druze town, accompanied by 40 French peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
The remains of the indeterminate number of soldiers were placed in a wooden box brought by the embassy officials, an AFP correspondent at the ceremony witnessed.
The box was closed with an embassy seal and then wrapped in a French flag.
Other items found along with the remains, such as medals, bullets and shoes, were placed in a separate bag.
The remains, which are due to be transferred to a French military cemetery in Lebanon, were found in 1985 by a Hasbaya resident, Salman Hamed. He had been hiding them ever since, fearing they would be confiscated by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Since Israel's troop pullout from southern Lebanon in May, French embassy officials had several times visited the Awja region where the remains were first discovered, some two kilometers (one mile) from Hasbaya.
In 1925 it was the scene of a battle between troops of the French mandate and a rebel group led by the Druze Sultan Pasha al-Atrash.
On December 3, Hamed explained that he had found bones and two skulls, with shoes and a medal which looked typical of the French army, when digging a farm track.
"I kept the remains in a box right until the withdrawal of Israeli troops" from Lebanon on May 24, after 22 years of occupation, he said -- HASBAYA, Lebanon (AFP)
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