Thursday 18 December 2014

Survivor vows justice for murdered Irish peacekeepers

Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30

Former UN peacekeeper John O’Mahony
Former UN peacekeeper John O’Mahony

THE sole survivor of an ambush in which two Irish peacekeepers were killed says he will have no problem looking the man who shot him in the eye if he's called to testify against him.

John O'Mahony said he was "overjoyed" by the arrest of Mahmoud Bazzi in the US and hopes he will be tried for war crimes for the murders of Private Thomas Barrett and Private Derek Smallhorne in the Lebanon in April 1980.

Mr O'Mahony was shot in the stomach and leg by Bazzi, who went on to live in the US where he was working as an ice cream vendor.

He learnt of his arrest by text message on Tuesday night and said he's still trying to comprehend the news that follows a 34-year wait for justice and is prepared to travel to the US or The Hague to find justice for his fallen comrades.

"It's very hard to understand that he was living over in America selling ice cream to children, but the Americans didn't really know anything about it until this year when the story broke there," he said.

Cork-born Private Barrett was a close friend of Mr O'Mahony and the pair served side by side on peacekeeping duty with the UN Interim Force in the Lebanon.

He met Private Smallhorne for the first time just minutes before he was murdered.

On April 18, 1980, the three were part of a convoy that was stopped and taken prisoner by de-facto forces at the village of At-Tiri.

They were disarmed and separated from the rest of the group. Mr O'Mahony was shot at close range in the gut and ankle by a man he says is Bazzi.

US immigration agents arrested Bazzi without incident at his Dearborn, Michigan, home for administrative immigration violations.

Bazzi will be held in custody by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcements pending removal proceedings.

Speaking at his home in Scartaglen, Co Kerry, Mr O'Mahony told the Irish Independent: "I hope this will be the start of justice for Smallhorne and Barrett and their families."

Defence Minister Simon Coveney said he hoped the arrest was the start of the process that would bring the alleged perpetrator to justice for his heinous crime.

He said the Lebanon was the country with primary jurisdiction in the case in terms of pursuing a prosecution. He added would like to assure the Smallhorne and Barrett families that the Government would do "everything possible" to pursue justice for both men.

Irish Independent

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