July 17, 2014 – A Detroit man accused of killing two Irish peacekeepers serving with the UN in Lebanon in 1980 was arrested by US authorities earlier this week.
Mahmoud Bazzi, who was a member of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), was arrested at his home in Dearborn on an immigration violation that could lead to his deportation back to Lebanon.
He moved to the US shortly after the April 1980 torture and execution of Privates Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett who were serving with the nine-nation UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Bazzi’s brother had been killed a week earlier in a skirmish with UNIFIL troops and the killing of the Irish peacekeepers was said to be a revenge attack.
Bazzi reportedly boasted in the Lebanese press of his responsibility for the killings but years later when confronted by a reporter from Irish television said the SLA militia forced him to confess publicly to the killings. A third Irish peacekeeper who was abducted along with Privates Barrett and Smallhorne, John O’Mahoney, was also shot but survived and says Bazzi was the triggerman.
A spokesperson for UNIFIL in New York said they are aware of the arrest of Bazzi.
“Pending clarity on charges filed by US authorities against the individual we won’t comment specifically,” Aditya Mehta said in an email to UN Tribune. “Any attack against UN Peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a war crime. We remain eternally grateful for the service and sacrifices of Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne, who were killed while serving in UNIFIL in 1980, and urge the authorities to hold those responsible to account.”
Ninety Irish peacekeepers have been killed serving in UN missions, more than half, 47, were killed serving with UNIFIL.
In total, more than 3,200 UN peacekeepers have lost their lives in the line of duty.
– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz