Dominique Soguel, AFP
Last updated: 14 April, 2012

Libya tests DNA in search for missing imam

Investigators are carrying out DNA tests on remains that could belong to Lebanese Imam Musa Sadr, who mysteriously disappeared in Libya more than 33 years ago, an official at the ministry of missing persons told AFP on Saturday.

“We are testing the DNA of three separate bodies,” said Esam Zregi, who heads the department for documentation and sample collections, adding that the final results would be ready in four to six weeks.

Investigators suspect that “one is Sheikh Musa Sadr and that the other two are his Lebanese associates,” who went missing at the same time, he added.

“Lebanese authorities are cooperating (with us),” he said.

The fate of the Iranian-born Shiite cleric has been unknown since he vanished during a trip to Libya aimed at negotiating an end to Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Zregi said Libyan investigators found the bodies drawing on information provided by witnesses and military figures linked with the former regime of Moamer Kadhafi, who are now in prison.

He said that the bodies were found in a graveyard — and not a mass grave as some media reported — in the suburb of Tajura, near Tripoli, thanks to a tip-off given by former regime associates.

“It is not 100 percent sure yet — we must wait for the results,” he warned.

In November, a former aide to Kadhafi, said the revered Lebanese spiritual leader had been liquidated during a 1978 visit to Libya.

Sadr reportedly disappeared following a meeting with the slain Libyan dictator soon after arriving in Tripoli.

Officially invited to Libya, he arrived there on August 25, 1978, with two companions Sheikh Mohammed Yacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddin. They were seen for the last time on August 31, 1978.

His disappearance had been a source of tension between Lebanon and the Kadhafi regime, which always maintained that the cleric had left Libya for Italy.

According to an indictment against Kadhafi issued by Lebanese authorities, Kadhafi ordered Sadr to be “taken away” after the pair got into a heated argument.

Abdel Moneim al-Honi, a former colonel who took part in the 1969 coup that brought Kadhafi to power, revealed in February that Kadhafi had ordered Sadr killed during his visit.

Kadhafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte on October 20 after an eight-month armed rebellion inspired by a wave of pro-democracy protests that swept the Arab world.