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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Lebanon identifies suspects in Blue Helmet's killing

Irish peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) walk with the UN and Irish flags during the repatriation ceremony for Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a UN patrol, at Beirut international airport on December 18. — AFP
Irish peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) walk with the UN and Irish flags during the repatriation ceremony for Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a UN patrol, at Beirut international airport on December 18. — AFP

BEIRUT: Lebanese investigators have identified suspects in the fatal shooting of an Irish United Nations peacekeeper whose vehicle came under fire earlier this month, a judicial official said on Thursday.


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 Lebanon's south.


The area is a stronghold of powerful Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah.


One of the injured was medevaced home to Ireland on Wednesday for further treatment.


"The investigation has been able to identify suspects but so far none has been arrested and the security services are still looking for them," said the judicial official who could not be further identified.


The UN patrol "was the target of gunfire from at least two people" when it arrived in Al-Aqbiya, according to the same source.


Citing preliminary findings, the source said the incident "was premeditated and the patrol was surveilled and followed by a car carrying armed men".


UNIFIL acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, neighbours which remain technically at war. The force operates near the southern border.


Wafic Safa, Hezbollah's security chief, has said the killing was "unintentional".


Witnesses said villagers in the Al-Aqbiya area blocked Rooney's vehicle after it took a road along the Mediterranean coast not normally used by UNIFIL.


Al-Aqbiya is just outside UNIFIL's area of operations, the force said. — AFP


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