Soldier Sean Rooney has been ‘shot at point blank range’ as his killers are suspected to have gained entry through the rear window in Lebanon

Private Seán Rooney was shot dead, believed to be at close range, after his armored vehicle had already overturned.

Initial investigations into the attack in Lebanon that killed the Irish peacekeeper point to a cold-blooded murder.

Today the Defense Forces announced that the two soldiers who were in the convoy and suffered minor injuries have now been discharged from hospital and are safe again at UNP 2-45, Camp Shamrock, Ireland.

An Air Corps CASA aircraft was pre-positioned in Malta as an emergency to support the 121 Infantry Battalion if needed.

The bulletproof UN vehicle in which four Irish troops were traveling withstood sustained gunfire – but it is believed Pte Rooney’s killers got into the vehicle through the rear window or door.

The Defense Forces have dispatched a plane to Malta, where it will await approval to fly to Beirut to transfer the 23-year-old’s body in the coming days.

Independent.ie understands that multiple narratives have emerged about what exactly led to his death. Pte Rooney was shot once in the head and died at the scene.

None of the other officers in the vehicle suffered gunshot wounds, but Trooper Shane Kearney remains in the hospital, where he underwent life-saving blunt force surgery.

To date, neither the United Nations nor Irish forces have been able to clarify why the SUV veered off a main route and headed for the coastal village of Al-Aqbiyah.

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Father Derek Ryan leaves Aiken Barracks in Dundalk. Photo: David Conachy

The area is controlled by the militant group Hezbollah, which denies any involvement in the killing.

A video circulated locally showed a large crowd gathered around the vehicle, while another showed the vehicle appearing to have been shot at while it was traveling at high speed.

The vehicle is believed to have been hit by seven bullets.

Another vehicle, also transporting Irish troops, was not involved in the incident.

A Unifil spokesman said it appeared the two vehicles were separated amid some confusion in dark conditions. Due to power shortages, the street lamps in Lebanon are often out.

“We have to keep in mind that this area is very, very dark at night, especially in these days of economic crisis, there is no public and private electricity.

“At this point, when you get onto the Autobahn, it’s not too difficult to take a wrong turn and end up going parallel to the main road,” Andrea Tenenti said.

“The assumption is that one of the two vehicles took a wrong turn – and therefore ended up in this city. By the time they realized they were in different areas, it was too late.”

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Flowers and tributes outside Aiken Barracks. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

Acting Prime Minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati said those responsible for the killing “will be punished”.

Special Counsel from Ireland are due to arrive in Lebanon today to conduct their own inquiries. A special team of support officers was also drafted in to help the remaining Irish officers in the country deal with the tragedy.

Defense Secretary Simon Coveney, who was visiting Pte Rooney’s family in Dundalk yesterday, said “every avenue, both Irish and international, is being explored to find out the truth about the murder”.

Pte Rooney, who was engaged, lived at Dundalk’s Aiken Barracks, close to his birthplace, and his family is steeped in the town’s military tradition.

Three of his uncles currently serve as soldiers at Aiken Barracks.

His family are understood to be keen on getting his remains back to Ireland before Christmas.

A friend of Pte Rooney’s family told this Irish Independent The young soldier always defended others and was “like a second son to me” as a child. Becky Shields has known the soldier since childhood, having struck up a friendship with her own son, Rhys.

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Flowers and tributes outside Aiken Barracks. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins

“He was just such a lovely kid.

“He was like a second son. He was always at our house, I can’t believe he’s gone.

“He was always looking out for others and always thinking of his friends.

“Seán was the guy who stood up for someone when they were being bullied. He was a brilliant kid.

“He was kind, friendly and happy and we can’t get over the shock,” Ms Shields said.

“My son can’t believe it. It’s the same for all of us, no one can believe Sean is gone – it’s just not real to us.

“Until Sean comes home, we won’t believe it.”

She added, “It’s nice to read all the nice things people say about Sean and that he’s remembered for being a good person.

“But it’s very hard to believe he’s gone.”

The soldier’s father had passed away several years ago and Pte Rooney’s mother, Natasha, is known to have been very close with her son.

Father Derek Ryan, pastor of Holy Family Church in Dundalk, said the local congregation will now put their arms around the mother and family to offer her some comfort at such a terrible loss.

“You know, obviously the family is going to be devastated,” he said

The cleric said credit must also be given to the defense forces.

“They are really there every step of the way and keep the family informed of what is happening.

“And so the family feels very supported by those around them.”

Natasha was “very, very proud” of her son, Father Ryan said.

“He grew up here in Dundalk.

“His mother and family are very proud of everything he has achieved in life.”

Pte Rooney is also commemorated in Donegal where he spent much of his life.

Father Philip Kemmy, parish priest in Newtown Cunningham, said: “It is appalling for any family.

“Nobody wants to hear a knock on their door in the middle of the night to say something has happened to their loved one.

“And the fact that he’s coming home next week is another devastating part of this tragedy for her.”

He described Pte Rooney as “a fine young man, a kind-hearted gentleman”.

“Your life is destroyed. How do you survive something like that?

“There is no talk of getting over a loss like this. You can only go through there.

“His mother has a great group of family and friends around her here in Donegal and in Dundalk and they will hold her tight.

“They have a tough road ahead of them and every time they bring it home there will be a new level of grief for them again.”

Fianna Fáil councilor Paul Canning said: “He was a fabulous, happy young chap who enjoyed life and dedicated himself to his career in the army and was proud to wear the badge.

“He’s done everything right in his life and it’s just awful that everything was taken from him.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/private-sean-rooney-shot-dead-at-close-range-as-its-suspected-his-killers-gained-access-through-rear-window-in-lebanon-42226218.html Soldier Sean Rooney has been ‘shot at point blank range’ as his killers are suspected to have gained entry through the rear window in Lebanon

Fry Electronics Team

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