Sunday 22 September 2019

Former ice-cream seller before tribunal over Irish soldier deaths

Derek Smallhorne from Dublin was killed in the Lebanon
Derek Smallhorne from Dublin was killed in the Lebanon
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

A former ice-cream seller, charged with the murder of two Irish peacekeeping troops in Lebanon 38 years ago, is to appear in court again this month.

Mahmoud Bazzi (74) was deported from the United States more than three years ago and is currently on trial before a military tribunal in Beirut.

He is charged with the murders of Privates Thomas Barrett from Cork and Derek Smallhorne from Dublin, and the attempted murder of Pte John O'Mahony on April 18, 1980.

The three men were on their last week of a six-month tour of duty with their Unifil (United States Interim Force in Lebanon) battalion. The incident took place less than two weeks after the South Lebanon Army (SLA) attacked Irish troops in the village of At Tiri.

During the battle two peacekeepers were killed, Pte Stephen Griffin from Galway and a Fijian. One member of the SLA, Massoud Bazzi, a brother of Mahmoud Bazzi, was also killed. During the April 18 incident, the three Irish peacekeepers were singled out by a gunman, who had been shouting "my brother, my brother", and another man.

The Irishmen were separated from the others and the gunman then opening fire, seriously wounding Pte O'Mahony. The other two peacekeepers tried to escape but were recaptured by the SLA. The bodies of Ptes Barrett and Smallhorne were later found nearby.

Shortly after, Mahmoud Bazzi appeared on TV and claimed he was responsible for the shootings. He later retracted his statement and alleged his commander forced him to claim responsibility.

Bazzi was later established to be in the US where he settled in Dearborn, Michigan, and worked as an ice-cream van driver. He later confessed to immigration fraud and agreed to be deported to Lebanon.

The tribunal is currently adjourned but resumes this month. While in Lebanon last March, Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe met the Lebanese defence minister and "stressed the importance of ensuring justice is served for the Barrett and Smallhorne families as well as for survivor John O'Mahony".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News