Hezbollah hands over man suspected of killing Irish UN peacekeeper in Lebanon

Suspected gunman is not believed to be a member of the militant group

The body of Pvt Sean Rooney is carried towards a plane in Beirut to be repatriated to Ireland. PA
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Hezbollah has handed over a man suspected of shooting dead an Irish soldier in Lebanon, according to reports.

Pvt Sean Rooney, 24, was killed while on a UN peacekeeping mission when the armoured vehicle he was travelling in came under fire.

Officers investigating the incident on December 14 arrested several people, according to Asharq Al Awsat, an Arabic international newspaper in London.

The AFP news agency, quoting an unnamed security source in Lebanon, reported that the man had been handed over to authorities by Hezbollah.

“The main shooter has been arrested by security forces after Hezbollah handed him over hours ago,” the source said.

A spokesman for the militant group and political party told Reuters that the man was a supporter of Hezbollah but not a member.

Security sources said the man was suspected of firing shots at a UN Interim Force in Lebanon vehicle as it drove through southern Lebanon.

The shooting happened near the village of Al Aqbiya in the country's southern stronghold of Hezbollah.

Three other soldiers were injured in the attack.

The Iran-backed group has denied any involvement in the shooting, which is the subject of three separate investigations. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Lebanese authorities led by a military prosecutor and the Irish Defence Forces have all launched inquiries.

Pte Rooney’s body was repatriated to Ireland last week, where he was remembered as a national hero.

The remains of the young man from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, were returned to his family.

The coffin carrying Pvt Rooney's body was carried into Holy Family Church in Dundalk, for his funeral Mass on Thursday morning by his family and members of the Irish Defence Forces.

The Irish tricolour and a UN flag were draped over his coffin.

“Today is the most difficult of days,” chief celebrant Fr Derek Ryan told the congregation in his opening words.

Irish President Michael D Higgins, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and Micheal Martin, the deputy head of government, were among those in attendance.

There was applause in the church when the soldier’s mother Natasha told the congregation: “He is a national hero.”

Updated: December 26, 2022, 1:49 PM