UNIFIL soldiers in southern Lebanon
UNIFIL soldiers in southern LebanonFlash 90

The Hezbollah terrorist organization has handed over a man suspected of killing an Irish United Nations peacekeeper earlier this month, a security official told AFP on Sunday.

Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed and three others injured on December 14 when their UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicle was attacked near the village of Al-Aqbiya in the country's south.

"The main shooter has been arrested by security forces after Hezbollah handed him over hours ago," the security official said on Sunday, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not immediately clear if the individual arrested was a member of the group.

UNIFIL acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel and operates near the border. It works to implement Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

According to the resolution, Hezbollah must not be allowed to operate in southern Lebanon and the entire area of southern Lebanon must be free of any armed personnel and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon.

Hezbollah is cooperating in the probe led by Lebanese military intelligence, the official said Sunday, adding that "preliminary investigations are nearly complete."

Earlier this week, a judicial official told AFP that Lebanese investigators had identified suspects in the attack, adding that there were "at least two" shooters.

A car carrying armed men followed the UNIFIL vehicle, the judicial source had said, citing preliminary findings and calling the attack "premeditated".

UNIFIL peacekeepers have come under attack several times over the years. In June, the UN's mission in Lebanon called for the country's military to guarantee the security of its peacekeepers, alleging personnel were "threatened" by armed men.

In January, unknown perpetrators attacked a group of UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, vandalizing their vehicles and stealing official items from them.

In late 2020, a mob seized equipment from a UNIFIL convoy in south Lebanon after blocking its route.

The incident, which required the intervention of the Lebanese army, took place as the UNIFIL convoy passed through the village of Kaouthariyet Al-Saiyad on the way back to base.