Man accused of killing Irish UN peacekeeper in Lebanon released on bail

15 November 2023, 16:34

Private Sean Rooney
Private Sean Rooney death. Picture: PA

Private Sean Rooney was killed on December 14 2022.

Lebanon’s military tribunal has released a man accused of killing an Irish United Nations peacekeeper on bail, security and judicial officials said.

The development comes as Unifil, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, monitors ongoing clashes along the border between Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops.

Lebanon’s military tribunal in June charged Mohamad Ayyad and four others with the killing of Private Sean Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, following a half-year probe.

He was killed on December 14 2022. Ayyad was detained in December 2022.

The four others facing charges – Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman – remain at large. All five are allegedly linked with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in the killing. Hezbollah representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Unifil spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said he was aware of reports about Ayyad’s release due to his “deteriorating health” and that Unifil is “working to confirm this information with the military court”.

“The Government of Lebanon has on several occasions stated its commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mr Tenenti told the Associated Press. Last June, Mr Tenenti said the indictment was an “important step towards justice”.

“We continue to urge that all perpetrators be held accountable, and for justice for Private Rooney and his family,” he said.

An Irish UN peacekeeper stands next to the coffin of his comrade Sean Rooney
An Irish UN peacekeeper stands next to the coffin of his comrade Sean Rooney (Hussein Malla/AP)

Two Lebanese officials confirmed that Ayyad was released on bail due to unspecified health concerns. The official said the trial is still ongoing and that Ayyad would go to jail should he be convicted and sentenced.

On the fatal night, Private Rooney and several other Irish soldiers from Unifil were on their way from their base in southern Lebanon to Beirut airport. Two UN vehicles apparently took a detour through Al-Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under the peacekeepers’ mandate.

Initial reports said angry residents confronted the peacekeepers, but the indictment concluded that the shooting was a targeted attack. The UN peacekeeper vehicle reportedly took a wrong turn and was surrounded by vehicles and armed men as they tried to make their way back to the main road.

The Lebanese Army on December 27 arrested a suspect but did not disclose their name.

Unifil was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion.

The UN expanded its mission following the 2006 war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, allowing peacekeepers to deploy along the Israeli border to help the Lebanese military extend its authority into the country’s south for the first time in decades.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Police officers pursue a deer down a hallway at Cedar Grove Elementary School in Toms River, New Jersey

Deer’s escape after breaking into US school captured on police bodycams

Police officers stand by the tail of a small plane that made an emergency landing in Villejuif, outside Paris

Small plane makes emergency landing in Paris suburbs

The mayor of Kyiv has claimed president Zelenskyy is becoming increasingly autocratic.

‘Zelenskyy is becoming an autocrat’ Kyiv mayor Klitschko says, as he warns Ukraine will soon be 'no different to Russia'

Actor Jonathan Majors arrives at court in New York

Jonathan Majors assault trial starts with competing versions of confrontation

Manuel Rocha when he was US ambassador to Bolivia

Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuba for decades

A UK city has been crowned the prettiest in the world, according to a study.

UK city crowned ‘prettiest in the world’ - putting Venice in second place

Aitana was created by an AI modelling agency.

‘Spanish influencer’ created entirely by AI generates its modelling agency £9,000 a month with 200,000 followers

In his victory speech in November, Mr Milei promised Argentina that "the reconstruction of Argentina begins."

'It's not a joke, it's a provocation!': Argentina launches another attack on Britain amid Falklands row

Binyamin Needham died fighting in the Gaza strip

British-Israeli teenager killed while fighting for the IDF in Gaza

Police near the Eiffel Tower after the attack

French investigators probe mental health of Paris attacks suspect

Guinea Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo

Guinea-Bissau’s president dissolves parliament after failed coup

Flooded streets in the town of Katesh

At least 47 dead and 85 injured after heavy rain and landslides in Tanzania

Municipal workers clear snow from pavements in Moscow

Disruption on roads and at airports as Moscow hit by heavy snow

Rescuers at the copper mine in Chingola

Hopes raised for survivors after more than 30 buried by landslide at Zambia mine

A US military CV-22 Osprey takes off from a base in western Japan

Divers find wreckage and remains from Osprey aircraft that crashed off Japan

Two people on a motorcycle ride past as Mount Marapi spews volcanic material

Indonesia’s Marapi volcano erupts for second day as 12 climbers remain missing