Irish soldier killed after vehicle shot at by mob in Lebanon

Irish soldier killed after vehicle shot at by mob in Lebanon

Irish soldier is killed when his vehicle is surrounded and shot at by mob in Lebanon as he was escorting UN personnel returning to Ireland following death of relatives

  • Private Seán Rooney from Donegal was killed last night in Al-Aqbieh, Lebanon
  • The 23-year-old died and another soldier, Private Shane Kearney was injured
  • Two of those in the convoy were being escorted home to attend family funerals 

An Irish soldier serving as a UN peacekeeper in Lebanon was killed after his vehicle was surrounded and shot at by a mob as he was escorting soldiers home to Ireland after the death of their relatives. 

Private Seán Rooney from Donegal, part of the 27 Infantry Battalion in Dundalk, was killed last night in a convoy in Al-Aqbieh that was en route to Beirut. 

The 23-year-old died and another soldier, Private Shane Kearney, from Cork, was injured and is in a serious condition in hospital, having undergone surgery. 

Their convoy was attacked as it was carrying eight people. Two were about to fly home for family funerals, reported the Independent Ireland.  

Private Seán Rooney from Donegal, part of the 27 Infantry Battalion in Dundalk, was killed last night in a convoy in Al-Aqbieh that was en route to Beirut

His vehicle was surrounded and shot at by a mob as he was escorting soldiers home to Ireland after the death of their relatives. Pictured: the scene

Rooney suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Two other peacekeepers were treated for minor injuries.

The soldiers were part of 121st Infantry Battalion, which comprises 333 Irish soldiers, that was deployed in November 2022 to South Lebanon as part of UNIFIL (United Nation Interim Force in Lebanon).

The convoy of two armoured vehicles en route to Beirut came under small arms fire at around 9.15pm on Wednesday night.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said it was considered a standard run from UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon to Beirut. 

He said the vehicles became separated and one was surrounded by a hostile mob and shots were fired in the ‘unexpected’ attack.  

All four soldiers injured in the attack were taken to Raee Hospital, near Sidon, following the incident.

Four other soldiers in the convoy were uninjured in the attack. 

Coveney said the soldier is ‘a young man who has lost his life in service of Ireland and of the UN’.

‘This is a shocking and tragic incident and of course we have an investigation under way,’ he said, expressing his condolences to the man’s family and relatives of the other soldiers.

Mr Coveney said the incident happened during a two-and-a-half-hour journey to the UN peacekeeping camp in Lebanon.

‘Essentially what happened, we think, was two armoured personnel vehicles were travelling from our main camp in southern Lebanon to Beirut. It was a standard administrative run, as it’s called in military terms,’ he told RTE Radio.

The convoy of two armoured vehicles en route to Beirut came under small arms fire at around 9.15pm on Wednesday night

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said it was considered a standard run from UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon to Beirut (pictured on December 12)

 Mr Coveney said the incident happened during a two-and-a-half-hour journey to the UN peacekeeping camp in Lebanon. Pictured: the scene

‘And the two armoured vehicles effectively got separated. One of them got surrounded by a hostile mob – I think that’s the only way you could describe them – and shots were fired and unfortunately one of our peacekeepers was killed.

‘This is a very serious incident. We haven’t had a fatality in the Defence Forces on peacekeeping missions for over two decades.’

‘This is the worst possible news that a family could hear,’ he said, saying the families affected were informed between 2-5am Irish time.

‘It’s just shocking, just before Christmas in particular, in terms of the time of year, but it’s shocking to ever lose somebody who is serving their country overseas as a peacekeeper.’

Mr Coveney, who is currently in New York for a UN Security Council meeting, said he intends to meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss a ‘full investigation’ into the incident.

‘I will return to Ireland this evening after I meet with the UN Secretary-General to discuss the loss of our peacekeeper and the full investigation that must now follow,’ he said.

Hezbollah is a powerful armed group and a heavyweight political party with significant support in the country’s south.

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

Hezbollah on Thursday offered its condolences and said it was not involved.

The 121st Infantry Battalion is part of a multinational battalion, comprising Irish, Maltese, Polish and Hungarian personnel.

The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Lebanon was established in 1978 following Israel’s invasion of the country.

Irish President Michael D Higgins offered his ‘deepest condolences’ to the family of the dead soldier.

‘As President of Ireland and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, it is with a heavy heart, and conscious of the great loss it will represent to them, that I offer my deepest condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of the member of the Defence Forces who has lost their life,’ he said.

‘A life lost serving the people of Ireland, serving the United Nations, and serving all those wishing for peace in our shared world.’

Irish premier Micheal Martin expressed the heartfelt sympathies of the Irish government

The vehicles became separated and one was surrounded by a hostile mob and shots were fired in the ‘unexpected’ attack

Irish premier Micheal Martin said: ‘It is with a deep sense of sadness and shock that I have learned of the death of one of our Unifil peacekeepers, and serious injuries to another, in an incident in Lebanon.

‘I want to express the heartfelt sorrow of the Government of Ireland at the loss of a young person serving overseas with the United Nations.

‘In particular, I extend to his family our deepest sympathies for the terrible loss they have suffered.

‘It is a reminder that our peacekeepers serve in dangerous circumstances, at all times, in the cause of peace.

‘Our thoughts are with his colleagues, and to the wider Defence Forces family and all who serve overseas, we know how deeply you will feel this loss.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you.’

Political figures in Ireland also offered their thoughts and prayers, as Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald reacted to the ‘deeply shocking news’ and labour leader Ivana Bacik said the death was ‘horrific’.

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