Lebanon detains Hezbollah supporter in probe of Irish peacekeeper death

The security sources said the man was suspected of firing shots at a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle that was traveling through south Lebanon on Dec. 15.

 Members of UNIFIL peacekeepers carry the coffin of Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a U.N. peacekeeping Patrol, during a repatriation ceremony at Beirut international airport, in Beirut, Lebanon December 18, 2022. (photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS)
Members of UNIFIL peacekeepers carry the coffin of Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a U.N. peacekeeping Patrol, during a repatriation ceremony at Beirut international airport, in Beirut, Lebanon December 18, 2022.
(photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS)

The Lebanese army detained over the weekend a main suspect in the recent killing of an Irish UN peacekeeper in a move coordinated with powerful armed group Hezbollah, two security sources and a Hezbollah spokesperson said.

The man is a supporter of the Iran-backed militia and heavyweight political party, but not a member of the group, the Hezbollah spokesperson told Reuters.

The security sources said the man was suspected of firing shots at a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle that was traveling through south Lebanon on Dec. 15.

Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed in the incident, the first fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since 2015.

 A vehicle carrying the body of Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a UN peacekeeping Patrol, heads to Beirut airport to be repatriated, in Sidon December 18, 2022. (credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS) A vehicle carrying the body of Irish soldier Sean Rooney who was killed on a UN peacekeeping Patrol, heads to Beirut airport to be repatriated, in Sidon December 18, 2022. (credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)

Who killed the Irish UN peacekeeper in Lebanon?

Hezbollah has officially denied involvement in the incident, calling the killing an "unintentional incident" that took place solely between the town's residents and UNIFIL.

On Dec. 16, Ireland's then-foreign and defense minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE that he did not accept Hezbollah's assurances that it had no involvement.

"We don't accept any assurances until we have a full investigation concluded to establish the full truth."

Simon Coveney

"We don't accept any assurances until we have a full investigation concluded to establish the full truth," he said.

UNIFIL has operated in Lebanon since 1978 to maintain peace along its border with Israel. It was expanded after a UN resolution that halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon.