On 19 April 1980, the body of an Irish UN peacekeeper, Private Stephen Griffin arrived at Dublin Airport. He had been killed three days earlier by the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-backed Christian militia, while manning a checkpoint at At Tiri in southern Lebanon.
|Pallbearers from the 1st Engineers Company Cork, colleagues of Private Stephen Griffin, carry his tricolour-draped coffin into the church at Arbour Hill, 19 April 1980|
While Pvt Griffin’s body lay waiting to be returned to his family, three of his colleagues were ambushed by the SLA on 18 April: Private John O’Mahony, Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett. Pvt O’Mahony managed to escape, but not without being shot several times. He survived and is still alive today. Pvts Smallhorne and Barrett were taken away and their bodies were found that night. They had both been tortured and shot in the back of the neck at close range.
Mahmoud Bazzi allegedly claimed responsibility for these deaths, saying it was in revenge for the killing of his own brother. He has been living in the US for the past twenty years and initiated citizenship proceeding. As a result of this, the US authorities sought information from a Associated Press journalist that was with the Irish soldiers when they were kidnapped. This journalist, Steve Hindy, identified Bazzi as one of the SLA men involved in the ambush.
The ‘Justice for Smallhorne and Barrett’ group, made up of family, friends and former colleagues of the two soldiers have welcomed this development, as they have been putting pressure on the US government to extradite Bazzi back to Lebanon to answer for his activities during the civil war.
While this is a small step forward, it gives hope that the US authorities are finally prepared to openly address the case of a man accused of kidnapping a US citizen (Hindy), the attempted murder of a UN peacekeeper and the torture and murder of two UN peacekeepers being allowed to live freely in their country.
The Journal.ie have an in-depth article on the background of this case, which you can find here.