Man arrested in connection with deaths of Irish soldiers

Thomas Barrett, who was killed in a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in 1980.

A Cork woman whose father was killed in a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in 1980 said the arrest of his accused killer in the US is the first step toward justice.

Karen Barrett was six when her father was killed while serving with the Irish Army on a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border.

Thomas Barrett (aged 29), from Macroom was killed alongside Derek Smallhorne (aged 31), from Bluebell in Dublin, in revenge for the earlier killing of the alleged gunman's brother in a battle with UN troops. A third soldier, John O'Mahony from Kerry, was injured in the attack.

The alleged gunman, Mahmoud Bazzi (aged 71) from Lebanon, living in Detroit and working as an ice cream seller, was arrested by US authorities yesterday. He is being detained on an immigration violation that could lead to his deportation.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning, Ms Barrett said the arrest provided a beacon of hope for justice for the death's of her father and Mr Smallhorne.

“We got the news late last night and we are still in disbelief to be brutally honest,” Ms Barrett said.

“This is 34 yrs in the making, (we feel) a bit numb. He’s been detained for documentation reasons, this is the first step of hopefully justice for my dad and Mr Smallhorne,” she said.

According to reports in the US, Bazzi’s arrest is connected to his entry into the country on a false passport from the Middle East 21 years ago. It is not clear if Bazzi will face charges associated with the killings of the two Irish soldiers in Lebanon.

Ms Barrett said the family have sought justice for her father’s killing for the past 34 years and exhausted all avenues in the Irish legal system.

“My mother held the torch and fought and always maintained my father was a scapegoat. As we grew up she told us exactly what happened to Dad. We wanted to know why this happened and why it was allowed to happen. Legally we have done all we can in Ireland,” Ms Barrett said.

Campaigning on the families behalf, a group called Justice for Smallhorne and Barrett, met with American officials in Dublin last month to request US action against Bazzi.

Earlier this month, hundreds of retired Irish soldiers held a peaceful vigil outside the US Embassy in Dublin in a bid to highlight the issue.

Ms Barrett said the families are ‘eternally grateful’ to the support group for their commitment and described the 34 year campaign for justice as ‘extremely difficult.’

“At the end of day we know in our own mind, we know we’ve done all we can. We feel let down by the Irish government. In 34 yrs the laws could have been changed and they haven’t been,”

“What we don’t want to happen is that Bazzi is held on red tape. The Americans say he will be deported – but we don’t want him deported to a country other than Lebanon,” she said.

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