Irish peacekeepers injured in Lebanon bomb attack

IRISH peacekeeping troops in the Lebanon were wounded yesterday when their vehicle was hit in a roadside bomb attack.

The two soldiers were struck while travelling in a white United Nations vehicle, just 35 kilometres south of Beirut.

The blast smashed the windows of the four-wheel vehicle after it hit the roadside bomb, unconfirmed reports said.

At the time of the attack they were travelling from Beirut to the mission HQ in Naquora and the incident took place in the area of the village Rmaileh.

A Defence Forces spokesman said both soldiers had received minor injuries in the attack.

“The exact circumstances of the incident are being investigated by UNIFIL authorities,” said the army spokesman.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wished the recovering soldiers well and said the incident was a “timely reminder” of dangers faced by Irish troops abroad.

“I am greatly relieved to hear that the two soldiers injured in this attack have not suffered life-threatening injuries. I want to extend my best wishes to both soldiers and their families for a speedy recovery.”

Irish soldiers stood down from peacekeeping duties in Lebanon last October, after 24 years of deployment in the war-torn country.

However, a number of commissioned officers have remained on, stationed with UNIFIL.

The two soldiers recovering yesterday are understood to be with the Air Corps and the Eastern Brigade.

The attack, while still under investigation, is thought to be the third on the 13,500-strong UNIFIL force since it was expanded after a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanese militants ended in August 2006.

On June 24 last, three Spanish and three Colombian UN soldiers were killed when a bomb destroyed their armoured troop carrier.

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea last night said: “I have spoken with Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lt Gen Dermot Earley to express my concern and sincere best wishes to the two men and their families. Today’s incident is a stark reminder of the dangerous yet vital work our brave troops do in the cause of peace,” he said.

The attack on the UN vehicle came only a number of hours after Israel said two rockets fired from Lebanon overnight had exploded in a northern border village.

Israel is on high alert ahead of an expected visit by US President George W Bush today.

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