Irish UN peacekeeping soldier killed in Lebanon to be repatriated

Lebanese caretaker PM says he is determined to uncover the circumstances that led to Sean Rooney's death

A Unifil car drives ahead of a vehicle carrying the body of Irish soldier Sean Rooney as it heads to Beirut airport to be repatriated, in Sidon, Lebanon, on Sunday.  Reuters
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The body of Irish UN peacekeeping soldier Sean Rooney, who was killed by a bullet to the head in Lebanon, will be repatriated later on Sunday.

A member of the Irish Defence Forces, Pvt Rooney, 23, died on active service when his convoy came under fire from unidentified assailants in the southern village of Al Aqbieh on Wednesday as it was travelling to Beirut.

The Defence Forces said Mr Rooney’s remains will leave Beirut on an Air Corps plane at 4pm Beirut time.

A UN ceremony will be held to honour the soldier at Beirut Airport before the departure.

Pvt Rooney’s body will be taken to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, before being reunited with his family on Monday.

His colleague, Pvt Shane Kearney, was seriously injured in the incident and remains in hospital.

Two other peacekeepers were treated for minor injuries.

The soldiers were part of 121st Infantry Battalion, comprising 333 Irish troops, which was deployed in November to south Lebanon as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil).

Lebanon is determined to uncover the circumstances that led to the killing of an Irish UN peacekeeper, caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati said during a visit to Unifil headquarters on Friday.

“The necessary investigations are ongoing to uncover the circumstances of the incident to avoid it from happening again in the future," Mr Mikati said at the Unifil headquarters in Naqoura, in southern Lebanon.

“Whoever is found guilty will be punished.”

Unifil said on Thursday that the details of what occurred were “sparse and conflicting” and it was co-ordinating an investigation with the Lebanese Armed Forces to determine exactly what happened.

"The peacekeepers took a wrong turn and they got detached from the rest of the convoy," Unifil spokesman Andrea Tenenti said. "As the investigation is ongoing we cannot further comment on the circumstances surrounding the incident."

Updated: December 18, 2022, 3:56 PM