Alleged killer of Irish UN soldiers is living in Detroit, selling ice cream

On April 18, 1980, two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers were murdered in Lebanon. Their alleged killer is now living in the US.

They asked Hindy to pick Bazzi out from a number of headshots, which he was easily able to do, even after 33 years. They then informed him that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was planning to hold a hearing in Detroit on Bazzi’s citizenship request and asked if he would be willing to testify, which he confirmed he would be happy to do.

By January, he hadn’t heard anything further. Figuring that raising public awareness could only help, Hindy published an article in Vice detailing his experience on April 18, 1980 and the long chain of investigative starts and stops that has continued ever since. Both he and Vice attempted to contact Bazzi a number of times, but each time they called his house someone hung up immediately.

Still, the article caught the attention of Robbie Masterson, a veteran of the Irish army who served in Lebanon with Smallhorne and Barrett, and who in recent years has been helping to continue Irish awareness of and involvement in the case.

“The saying goes, you don’t leave anyone behind,” Masterson told IrishCentral. “And we didn’t leave them behind, but it’s unfinished business. It’s very hard for guys like ourselves, who knew the guys and their families. It seems totally unjust that this guy could just live out his life in the US and enjoy all the benefits, whatever they may be, of a life in the US.”

Masterson put Hindy in touch with John O’Mahony. As it turned out, O’Mahony said he had also been contacted by agents wondering if he would testify in a citizenship hearing against Bazzi. He had been scheduled to meet with one of them in September, at the US Embassy in Dublin, when two days before the meeting was to take place he got a call saying it had to be postponed. As he is well accustomed to by now, he hasn’t had any contact from them since.

After publishing the article in Vice, Hindy heard from Special Agent Kao one more time. Kao informed him that the case is being handled by the Homeland Security Office in Detroit and told him that they would either contact Hindy directly or would ask Kao himself to arrange arrange for Hindy to testify.

“He wouldn’t give me the name of the investigator, the agent in Detroit,” Hindy said with an audibly raised eyebrow. “He said don’t worry, they’ll call you.”

They haven’t yet, but hopes are raised once again. While it’s generally understood now that taking Bazzi to trial for the killings will be next to impossible, O’Mahony and Masterson say that simply getting him to appear before a court – even if it is only for a citizenship trial – will be a victory in their books.

“Bazzi getting US citizenship would really be the nail in the coffin for us here in Ireland, having fought so hard for the last 34 years to try and get some justice,” O’Mahony said.

“I would just like to see somebody in authority ask him questions, do you know? If he was living in some other country it would be one thing, but in America I would expect better, especially after what America has gone through with wars.”

“To get Bazzi to stand in front of an immigration/deportation hearing would, in itself, be a huge step forward in the right direction,” Masterson agreed. “You hear about deportation cases all the time, so clearly if the political will is there, this can be done. Obviously he’ll have an opportunity to put his side of the story forward – and that’s good, he’s entitled to that, that’s democracy – but we want to keep the consciousness on the US authorities because this has been going on for years now.”

A resident of the area where Bazzi lives, who spoke to IrishCentral under the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Bazzi is still driving the ice cream truck and said that he sometimes goes by Mohamed instead of Mahmoud. He said it is understood that Bazzi occasionally travels to Canada, where another branch of the Bazzi family has settled. “You obviously have to be very confident in your situation and your immigrant status to be doing that,” he added.

He also spoke to the delicate balance in the Detroit/Dearborn community, which is home to one of the country’s largest Middle Eastern communities. In addition to Bazzi, a number of Shiite former SLA militiamen settled in the area, many after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. In addition to awakening political, religious and ethnic tensions within the community, he said, they were also greeted with a certain degree of resentment because it was understood that their departures from Lebanon had been facilitated.

“This is a country of immigrants and we know what it takes to come here,” he said. “The United States has quotas on how many people can come from different countries, and from a country like Lebanon, even for a law-abiding citizen who wants to come here and has the means and whatnot; it’s still usually a process. Some of the people who came from Southern Lebanon had known criminal histories, so there’s no way their moves weren’t arranged.”