A Lebanese military court has reportedly charged five members of Hezbollah with killing Irish peacekeeper Private Seán Rooney in December last year.
Fadi Sawan, the investigating judge in the military tribunal for the case, issued a 30-page indictment accusing five Hezbollah members of “forming a group of malefactors to commit a crime,” a judicial official told AFP Thursday, June 1 on condition of anonymity.
Footage from surveillance cameras near the scene of the incident “clearly shows the patrol being attacked by armed men from all sides,” the document read.
“Some of them could be heard saying ‘we are Hezbollah’ and using walkie-talkies to communicate,” the indictment added.
Among the five accused of “intentional homicide" is Mohammad Ayyad, who is in custody after Hezbollah handed him over to the army in December, the official told AFP.
According to the Associated Press, the four other suspects Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman are at large.
Under Lebanese law, such crimes are punishable by death, the official said, adding that Sawan had referred them to military court and shared the indictment with the UNIFIL.
UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said the indictment was an “important step towards justice."
“Attacks on men and women serving the cause of peace are serious crimes and can never be tolerated,” Tenenti told the AP.
“We look forward to justice for Private Rooney, his injured colleagues, and their families.”
Private Seán Rooney, a native of Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, joined Ireland's Defence Forces in March 2019 and his home unit was the 27 Infantry Battalion in Dundalk. He previously served overseas with the 119 Infantry Battalion UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon.)
Óglaigh na hÉireann said that on December 14, 2022, at approximately 11:15 pm Irish time, a serious incident took place in Lebanon involving members of the 121st Infantry Battalion, UNIFIL.
A convoy of two Armoured Utility Vehicles carrying eight personnel traveling to Beirut came under small arms fire. Four personnel were taken to Raee Hospital, near Sidon, as a result of the incident.
24-year-old Rooney was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital while Trooper Shane Kearney, from Co Cork, underwent surgery. The two other soldiers were treated for minor injuries.
Then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Rooney was killed during a "standard administrative run" from UNIFIL's main camp in southern Lebanon to Beirut.
Before being repatriated to Ireland in December, Rooney was awarded the United Nations UNIFIL Peacekeeping Medal, the War Medal, the Wounded Medal, and the Appreciation Medal Bronze Degree from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
On May 25, Rooney was posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal at the United Nations.