Saturday 16 December 2017

Kenny pays top-secret trip to troops in Lebanon

Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will today visit the Irish peacekeeping troops in the Lebanon for the first time.

Mr Kenny, who is also the Minister for Defence, is the first Taoiseach to visit the United Nations mission since Bertie Ahern in 1999.

For security reasons, Mr Kenny's one-day visit to the Lebanon has been a closely guarded secret and could only be officially announced today. His arrival in Beirut came as tensions in the Middle East hit boiling point after a week of violent Islamist terror attacks left hundreds dead in Iraq.

Lebanon leaders are closely monitoring the escalating violence in Iraq as jihadist extremists linked to those leading the insurgency there claimed responsibility for a spate of car bombings in Beirut in the past two years.

The Irish troops in At-tiri, South Lebanon, are currently on a high state of alert due to fears the bloody conflict in Iraq will reignite tensions in the already volatile region.

Commandant Colin Miller said: "There is concern, I think it's fair enough to say that."

Hezbollah have increased security in the main towns in the region and are also believed to have mounted counter-surveillance operations.

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Campion said every precaution is being taken to ensure the Taoiseach is protected. Before visiting the Irish soldiers, Mr Kenny will meet Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam. He will announce an extra €2m in aid from Ireland to support the influx of thousands of refugees from Syria.

Irish Independent

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