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Minister for Defence Mr Simon Coveney T.D., today welcomed the detention of the alleged perpetrator of the murder of two Irish soldiers

The Minister for Defence Mr Simon Coveney T.D., today welcomed the detention of the alleged perpetrator of the murder of two Irish soldiers in the Lebanon in 1980. Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested Mahmoud Bazzi without incident at his Dearborn, Michigan, residence for administrative immigration violations. The Minister understands that he will be held in custody by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s pending removal proceedings.

On the 18th of April, 1980, Private Thomas Barrett and Private Derek Smallhorne were murdered and one soldier, Private John O’Mahony was seriously injured in an incident in Lebanon. The personnel were serving as peacekeepers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). At the village of At-Tiri, a convoy, which included the three Irish soldiers, was stopped and all the personnel were taken prisoner by de-facto forces. The Defence Forces personnel were disarmed and separated from the rest of the group. Private O’Mahony was shot and seriously injured while Privates Barrett and Smallhorne were murdered.

Speaking after receiving the news, the Minister said, “Successive Ministers for Defence, Departmental officials, the military authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have continually pursued this matter with both the US and Lebanese authorities over the years through all available channels. During his recent visit to Irish troops serving with UNIFIL in the Lebanon, the Taoiseach again raised the matter with the Lebanese authorities. I hope this is the start of a process to bring to Justice the alleged perpetrator of what was a heinous crime, the torture and murder of two innocent Irish peacekeepers. My Officials are in touch with the US authorities in relation to the matter and how this process will proceed and I am awaiting a report in that regard.”

The question of the measures open to the Irish Authorities to bring the alleged perpetrator of this crime to justice have been examined in detail in the Department of Defence in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The country with primary jurisdiction in this case is Lebanon in terms of pursuing a prosecution against the alleged perpetrator.

“While the efforts of Irish and other State authorities to see justice done have been consistent and continuous, our thoughts today should be with the families of Privates Barrett and Smallhorne, whose efforts and those of their comrades have ensured that this issue was never forgotten and whose respectful actions and protest have touched us and helped in advancing their cause. I know this is a difficult day for them and while they welcome the detention of Mahmoud Bazzi, I’m sure this re-ignites very difficult memories” the Minister said.

In concluding, the Minister said: While today’s news is very welcome on one level, no finding has yet been made in the case against the alleged perpetrator. This is the first step on what will possibly be a further long and difficult road but I would like to to assure the families that I and the Irish Government will do everything possible to pursue justice for both men who lost their lives in the line of peacekeeping duty I look forward to having an opportunity to speaking with both families in the coming days.”.


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