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Private Seán Rooney

Seven people charged in Lebanon over attack that killed Private Seán Rooney last month

UNIFIL had urged Beirut to ensure a swift investigation, the incident being the first violent death of one of its peacekeepers in nearly eight years.

LEBANON HAS CHARGED seven people for participating in the attack that killed United Nations peacekeeper Private Sean Rooney last month.

The 23-year-old Irish solider was killed and three others were injured on December 14 when their UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle was attacked near the village of Al-Aqbiya in the south of the Mediterranean country, a stronghold of the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah. 

Only one of the seven charged, Mohammad Ayyad, is in custody, having been handed over to the army by Hezbollah last month, news agency AFP has reported.

Yesterday, Ayyad was charged “with killing the Irish soldier and attempting to kill his three comrades by shooting them with a machine gun”, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they did not have permission to speak to the media.

The judge also charged six fugitives “for uttering threats with an illegal weapon, destroying the UNIFIL vehicle and intimidating its passengers”, the official added. 

Following the attack, UNIFIL urged Beirut to ensure a swift investigation, the first violent death of one of its peacekeepers in nearly eight years.

Seven bullets pierced the UN vehicle, one hitting the driver in the head, judicial sources said.

Private Rooney was laid to rest in Donegal last month having also been remembered in Dundalk, where he spent much of his childhood.

UNIFIL, made up of some 10,000 peacekeepers, has been deployed since 1978 to act as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, which remain technically in a state of war.

There have been incidents in the past between Hezbollah supporters and UNIFIL patrols, but they have rarely escalated.

The group has distanced itself from the latest attack, hastening to offer its condolences to the UNIFIL forces.

A security official has previously said that Hezbollah was cooperating with the investigation, which is led by Lebanon’s military intelligence service.

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