Lebanon’s Hezbollah Hands Over Suspected Killer of Irish UN Peacekeeper
i24 News – Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group has handed over a man suspected of killing an Irish United Nations peacekeeper earlier this month, a security official told AFP on Sunday.
Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed and three others injured on December 14 when their UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle was attacked near the village of Al-Aqbiya in the country’s south, a stronghold of the Iran-backed group.
UNIFIL was set up in 1978, acting as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel and operating near the border between the two countries as they are technically at war. UNIFIL urged Beirut to ensure a swift investigation into the first violent death of one of its peacekeepers in nearly eight years – the most recent being in January 2015, when a Spanish peacekeeper was killed by Israeli fire.
“The main shooter has been arrested by security forces after Hezbollah handed him over hours ago,” the security official said, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. It was not immediately clear if the individual arrested was a group member.
Hezbollah is cooperating in the probe led by Lebanese military intelligence, the official said, adding that “preliminary investigations are nearly complete.”
Earlier this week, a judicial official told AFP that Lebanese investigators had identified suspects in the attack, adding that there were “at least two” shooters.
A car carrying armed men followed the UNIFIL vehicle, the judicial source had said, citing preliminary findings and calling the attack “premeditated.” Hezbollah has repeatedly denied involvement in the incident, and its security chief Wafic Safa has described the killing as “unintentional.”
Witnesses said villagers in the Al-Aqbiya area – just outside UNIFIL’s area of operations – blocked Rooney’s vehicle after it took a road along the Mediterranean coast not usually used by UNIFIL. The three passengers were injured when the car hit a pylon and overturned.