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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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Man suspected of killing two Irish soldiers in Lebanon to be deported from US

Mahmoud Bazzi entered the US illegally but is not charged with the deaths.

A LEBANESE MAN suspected of killing two Irish soldiers who were on UN peacekeeping duty in 1980 is to be deported from the US.

Mahmoud Bazzi has admitted entering the US illegally and is to be returned to his homeland but his lawyer has said he does not want to return through Europe because of the Irish Government’s interest in him.

Privates Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett were killed by the South Lebanon Army in an attack in which another Irish soldier was also injured.

The two men were also tortured when captured by an SLA unit that had stopped a UN convoy in war-torn Lebanon near the Israeli border.

The ambush is believed to have been a revenge attack after a fatal gun battle between SLA and UN troops in the weeks previous.

Families of both men as well as the Defence Forces have repeatedly lobbied successive Irish Governments to put pressure on US authorities to arrest Bazzi.

Bazzi stood in front of Lebanese reporters in 1980 saying that he had shot the two soldiers but now says that he was not involved in their killing.

Mahboud Bazzi Mahmoud Bazzi is to be sent back to Lebanon. Source: AP/Detroit Free Press

The 71-year-old was arrested in Detroit last month where he had been working as an ice-cream man but is not charged with killing the soldiers.

Frank Ledda, the US government’s lawyer in the immigration case, said Bazzi’s deportation has nothing to do with those allegations.

The agreement was “simply designed to remove him from the United States,” Ledda said.

Bazzi and his attorney Karim Ajluni told immigration court that they wanted him to travel directly to Lebanon, but Ledda said “there is no direct route that we can travel by.”

Ajluni said Bazzi didn’t want to travel through Europe because of the Irish government’s interest in him.

“We do not want any complications by any government officials or being stopped at an airport,” Ajluni said. “His order is very clear. He should be deported to Lebanon.”

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that that “the government hasn’t agreed to avoid any specific territory.”

It isn’t clear when Bazzi would leave the US but deportations usually take about 30 days, he is currently being held in jail.

The US government says that Bazzi was not honest about how he entered the country when he received asylum in 1994 and entered the country allegedly on someone else’s passport.

Immigration Judge David Paruch warned Bazzi, whose wife and three daughters will remain in the US, that he will not be allowed to return for at least 10 years without permission from the US government.

lebanon 800 servicemen and women marched on the US embassy in Dublin last month for the two slain soldiers.

 

Bazzi told the judge that he asked his wife to pack an American flag among his belongings.

“I want the American flag with me,” he said. “I moved to this country and I love this country.”

Bazzi’s daughter, Malak Bazzi, told reporters that he could face trial in Lebanon for the deaths of the Irish soldiers

“There isn’t really any evidence against him,” she said. “My dad’s always wanted to go back to Lebanon. I hope he just stays there and lives the rest of his life.”

Offiials are the Department of Defence here have said that they were keeping in “in touch” with the US authorities over Bazzi’s detention.

- With reporting from Associated Press

Read: Families cautiously optimistic after arrest of man alleged to have killed two Irish soldiers >

Read: Irish and US authorities ‘in touch’ about man who claimed he killed Irish soldiers >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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