(Photo credit: Reuters)
Security officials in Lebanon confirmed on 25 December that the suspected killer of Private Sean Rooney is in custody thanks to the collaboration of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.
“The main shooter has been arrested by security forces after Hezbollah handed him over hours ago,” a security official told media on Sunday night.
The official claimed that Hezbollah is cooperating in the probe led by military intelligence, adding that “preliminary investigations are nearly complete.”
Days earlier, investigators identified several suspects in the shooting.
Rooney was shot dead on 14 December when a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle entered a village outside their legal mandate without the required army escort, angering locals that predominantly belong to the Shia Muslim sect.
Suspicious of the foreign troops, the villagers demanded they leave after blocking their intended path before the shooting started.
Despite claims and accusations against Hezbollah for allegedly being behind the shooting, reports say the shooter is not a member of the group but rather a 31-year-old supporter.
Hezbollah repeatedly denied involvement in the incident, and its security chief Wafic Safa described the killing as “unintentional.”
UNIFIL has been operating in Lebanon since the first Israeli invasion of 1978, after which UN Resolution 425 was passed, allowing the “peacekeeping force” to “monitor the cessation of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel.”
Despite this, their forces failed to end an 18-year occupation and have even attempted to expand their areas of influence without proper authorization. Many have also accused UNIFIL of acting to suppress resistance in southern Lebanon on behalf of Israel.
Over the years, there have been several incidents between Hezbollah supporters and UNIFIL soldiers, but they have rarely escalated. Last week, UNIFIL urged Lebanon to ensure a swift investigation into the first violent death of one of its soldiers in nearly eight years.