UN soldier killed for thwarting bombers
Published 26/09/2011 | 05:00
A LEBANESE explosives expert murdered an Irish peacekeeping officer because of his skills in thwarting several attempts to blow up Israeli troops and their allies with roadside bombs.
Lieutenant Aongus Murphy was ambushed and killed by a bomb detonated by a command wire while he was serving with the Irish battalion in south Lebanon in August 1986.
The background to the murder is revealed in the independent review of the deaths of three of Lieut Murphy's colleagues in a bomb blast less than three years later.
The report, compiled by senior counsel Frank Callanan, said Lieut Murphy was targeted and killed because of "the valour and persistence with which he sought out and incapacitated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), planted by the Lebanese resistance".
The bomb ambush, set up on the road between the villages of Haddathah and At-Tiri, was either directed by or carried out by Jawad Kasfi, a member of Amal, the main Lebanese resistance group in the Irish area of operations at the time.
The report disclosed that Kasfi had been trained in Czechoslovakia and was "skilled and utterly ruthless" in the manufacture and deployment of the bombs.
Kasfi considered it was not the business of the Irish or the other peacekeeping battalions to seek out, destroy or remove the devices that were targeted at the Israelis and their allies, the South Lebanon Army (SLA).
He was also "jealously possessive of the IEDs he devised" and his responsibility for the death of Lieut Murphy -- from Tuam in Galway -- "was a notorious fact, as he no doubt intended it to be".
Reports drawn up by senior Irish officers at the time showed that this was not an isolated event and there had been an increase in devices placed by Amal and other resistance groups on or close to routes and positions used by the Israelis and SLA. It was also noted that a bomb detonated two weeks before Lieut Murphy's murder was intended to intimidate Irish personnel.
In December 1988, Israeli Shin Beth agents, disguised as Lebanese civilians, crossed into the Irish area of operations and abducted Jawad Kasfi and three others. Two were subsequently released but Kasfi has not been heard of since and is thought to be still held in an Israeli jail.
Some Amal elements believed wrongly that the Irish had been implicated in the abduction and the Irish headquarters in Tibnin, Camp Shamrock, came under fire but there were no casualties.
The day after the abduction Amal overpowered an Irish post in Tibnin and kidnapped three Irish soldiers.
The report noted that the Irish soldiers were "extremely vulnerable" in the immediate aftermath of Kasfi's abduction. But after negotiations with Amal leaders at Camp Shamrock, the three men were released unharmed the next day.
In his report, published last week, Mr Callanan argued that following those events there should have been a formal and thorough reassessment of the threat confronting the Irish battalion and new protection measures put in place.
Three months later, Corporal Fintan Heneghan, Private Mannix Armstrong and Private Thomas Walsh were killed by a roadside bomb, near Bra'shit.