Department of Defence confirms attack on Irish peacekeepers

Two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers suffered minor injuries in a roadside bomb attack today in south Lebanon.

Two Irish UN peacekeeping soldiers suffered minor injuries in a roadside bomb attack today in south Lebanon.

The Department of Defence confirmed the soldiers, who were two of just seven Irish personnel in the country, will be held in hospital overnight for observation.

The Defence Forces later confirmed the two men were from Dublin, however it is not yet known if they will be flown home to recuperate.

“That decision will be made between the people out there and the medical professions,” a spokesman added.

The blast is reported to have smashed the windows of a white UN four-wheel drive vehicle at Ramiliya, an area approximately 35km South of Beirut, at 12.50pm Irish time.

The men, who were serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), were travelling from Beirut to the mission HQ in Naquora at the time of the attack.

"The exact circumstances of the incident are being investigated by UNIFIL authorities," said a Defence Forces spokesman.

"The soldiers were taken to the Hammoud Hospital with superficial injuries in Saida by Lebanese Armed Forces and their condition is not life threatening."

A total of 160 members of the 36 Infantry Group (UNIFIL) were taken out of Lebanon in October, however seven personnel remained in the mission HQ.

Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea TD has conveyed his wishes and those of the Government for a speedy recovery.

"I have spoken with the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lt Gen. Dermot Earley to express my concern and my sincere best wishes to the two men and their families," said Minister O'Dea.

"Today's incident is a stark reminder to us all of the dangerous yet vital work our brave troops do in the cause of peace.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the two men and their families at this time."

The latest attack is believed to have been the third on the 13,500-strong UNIFIL force since it was expanded after a 34-day war ended in August 2006.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the attack on the sergeants was a timely reminder of the daily dangers faced by our peace keepers throughout the world.

"I am greatly relieved to hear that the two soldiers injured in this attack have not suffered life-threatening injuries," he said.

"I take great pride, as I know all Irish people do, in the significant role which our peacekeepers play in securing peace in many areas of the world, a role which will be further expanded with the imminent deployment to Chad.

"I want to extend my best wishes to both soldiers and their families for a speedy recovery.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the two men and their families at this time."

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