Irish peacekeeper Seán Rooney was shot dead through the rear window of an armored vehicle, investigators say.
In his efforts to further elucidate the events leading up to the 23-year-old’s death, a clear line of inquiry is that he was shot at point-blank range.
He is believed to have sustained a gunshot wound to the head and died at the scene of the attack.
It’s still unclear what led Private Rooney and three colleagues off a main road into an area controlled by the militant group Hezbollah.
Sources told the Irish Independent that their vehicle was surrounded by a violent mob in the village of Al-Aqbiyah.
How some of this group gained access to the bulletproof vehicle is key to the investigation. Hezbollah has denied ordering an attack.
An autopsy on Pte Rooney’s body will take place before his body is handed over to the Irish Armed Forces for repatriation.
Defense Secretary Simon Coveney visited the soldier’s family in Dundalk, Co Louth today.
He expressed his “deep regret” on behalf of the government and pledged to bring Pte Rooney’s remains home as soon as possible.
The Minister said “every avenue, both Irish and international, is being explored to establish the truth about the murder”.
Up to seven bullets were recovered at the scene. Photos show a series of impacts on the side of the UN armored vehicle.
Acting Prime Minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati said today those responsible for the killing “will be punished”.
Mikati and the Lebanese Army Commander both visited the local United Nations headquarters to pay their respects to Private Rooney. He said Lebanon remains committed to a 2006 UN resolution that expanded the presence of the peacekeeping mission.
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.
Lt. Col. Frank Colclough, commanding officer of Aiken Barracks, said today his mother Natasha received the news at 4am when two soldiers from the 28th Battalion and a local priest went to the family’s home in Donegal to break the news .
Investigators are trying to determine whether the Irish peacekeeper’s death was an “opportunistic” killing or part of a planned attack.
The manner of his death is considered a homicide in Irish military circles.
Trooper Shane Kearney, 22, was also seriously injured as two other officers suffered less serious wounds. It was confirmed today that Trooper Kearney has blunt force injuries but has not sustained any gunshot wounds.
The circumstances that led to the Irish unit deviating from an approved route from its base to Beirut Airport will be the focus of the investigation.
Eight Defense Forces personnel were traveling in two armored SUVs when they somehow got separated.
It is understood that none of the vehicles had satellite navigation tools on board as there was only a weak signal for much of the route. A number of lines of inquiry are expected to be developed in the coming days.
Sources said she didn’t know if the attack was “opportunistic” because the soldiers accidentally ended up in the area, or if “something more planned” happened.
One theory being investigated by the Defense Forces is that the doors of the vehicle containing Pte Rooney were unlocked due to the effects of the impact. This allowed the attackers access through the trunk.
Investigators reviewed several videos of the incident that were circulated locally after the attack.
In one, taken from a balcony of a third floor apartment, the Irish unit is seen driving at high speed as what appears to be bullets hitting the vehicle.
https://www.independent.ie/news/private-sean-rooney-believed-to-have-died-after-being-shot-through-rear-window-of-armoured-vehicle-42225533.html Soldier Seán Rooney is reported to have died after being shot through the rear window of an armored vehicle