What happens to a man alleged to be a suspect in the torture and killing of two Irish UN peacekeepers is a matter for American authorities, the Department of Defence has stated.
Last week, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested ice-cream seller Mahmoud Bazzi, 71, at his home in Dearborn, Michigan, for entering America on a false passport 21 years ago.
Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Bazzi was held for “immigration violations”, adding the American government was “committed to rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States”.
The Government insists it has made “numerous” contacts with counterparts in the US over the years regarding the case, but a spokesperson for Defence Minister Simon Coveney said: “It is a matter for the American authorities.”
Bazzi has denied killing Private Thomas Barrett, 29, from Macroom, Co Cork, and Private Derek Smallhorne, 31, from Bluebell, Dublin, in southern Lebanon in 1980, claiming he once falsely confessed because he feared a Lebanese militia would kill him.
Families of the dead men hope US authorities will send Bazzi back to Lebanon to stand trial in relation to the killings.
A third soldier, Private John O’Mahony from Kerry was also injured in the attack, which was said to have been launched in revenge for the killing of the suspect gunman’s brother in a battle with UN troops.
Mr Coveney said the arrest was a “first step” on what could be a “long and difficult road” in the pursuit of justice for the Irish UN peacekeepers.
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