A Lebanese military court has pressed charges against seven people allegedly involved in the attack on Irish peacekeepers in South Lebanon which killed Private Seán Rooney and seriously injured Trooper Shane Kearney.
A local military source confirmed to The Irish Times that charges had been brought on Thursday against multiple individuals whose identities have not been released publicly. The charges ranged from murder and attempted murder to destroying vehicles, according to the source.
The military source added that further arrests have been made and more are expected regarding the gun attack on December 14th in Al-Aqbiya which targeted a UN vehicle carrying four Irish peacekeepers who were deployed as part of the UN interim force in Lebanon known as Unifil.
Pte Seán Rooney (24), from Dundalk, Co Louth, died and trooper Shane Kearney (22), from Killeagh, Co Cork, was critically injured after shots were fired at their vehicle. The two other Irish soldiers on board suffered minor injuries. It was the first fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since 2015.
The vehicle was undertaking an administrative run to Beirut airport when it became separated from a second UN vehicle and took a non-standard route off the main highway between Beirut and South Lebanon.
On December 16th, former minister for foreign affairs Simon Coveney told RTÉ that he did not accept Hezbollah’s assurances that it had no involvement.
On December 25th, the Shia militant group Hezbollah, which dominates South Lebanon and the area surrounding Al-Aqbiya, handed over one suspect allegedly involved in the gun attack to the Lebanese army for interrogation. The suspect has been charged by the military court with murder and attempted according to a judicial source quoted by Reuters.
The location of the six other suspects is not currently known.
Hezbollah said that the suspect detained in December was a supporter but not a member of the group, which has both parliamentary and armed wings. A spokesperson for the group said it intends to “co-operate with the Lebanese army and Unifil to finish [the] case”.
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In a statement released on Thursday, the Lebanese army said that its intelligence division completed its preliminary investigation into the Al-Aqbiya attack on January 3rd and that the case file was referred to “the competent judiciary”. No other detail or the specific charges issued by the military court were provided.
The Lebanese army subsequently confirmed that the case will be dealt with by the military court which has a broad jurisdiction over civilians in Lebanon including when the offences involve weapons possession, crimes against national security and conflict between civilians and military personnel.
In addition to the local investigation led by the Lebanese army, Unifil and the Defence Forces are separately undertaking their own investigations into the attack. Unifil has operated in Lebanon since 1978 to maintain peace along the border with Israel and was expanded by the UN resolution that halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon.
The Defence Forces had no comment to make on the charges. – Additional reporting PA