Lebanon News

No leads yet in probe into UNIFIL bombing

United Nations and emergency personnel gather at the site of a roadside bomb attack on a U.N. peacekeepers' vehicle in Bourj al-Shamali, near the port city of Tyre, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Friday, wounding five French soldiers and a Lebanese bystander, officials said. This was the third bombing this year targeting the international force known as UNIFIL, which is deployed to keep the peace along L

BEIRUT: Investigators have yet to turn up any solid leads into the recent French UNIFIL bombing or any other bombing this year, making Friday’s attack the third unresolved case for Lebanon’s peacekeepers.

A judicial source told The Daily Star there were “no serious leads” on the groups that carried out the Dec. 11 bombing against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon or the two previous bombings this year because of the sophistication of the attack and the complexities of the south Lebanon security situation.

This latest bombing adds to a list of ongoing investigations into attacks against UNIFIL in which officials have yet to arrest or name suspects.

A roadside bomb ripped through a vehicle Friday morning from the French contingent of UNIFIL Lebanon near Tyre, south Lebanon, wounding five peacekeepers. All five of the injured have been released from the hospital.

Five French peacekeepers were wounded by a bombing in Sidon in July while in May six Italian peacekeepers were wounded by a bombing also near Sidon.

Both investigations into the bombings are still open.

A number of civilians have also been injured in the attacks.

Previous attacks against peacekeepers used sophisticated technology including shaped explosive charges that shot hundreds of steel ball bearings at U.N. vehicles. The latest attack was also technically sophisticated, the judicial source said.

The judicial source said there are a number of obstacles in the way of investigators, most importantly that the attacks are carried out near independent security zones under the influence of other parties in south Lebanon.

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said because the investigation is ongoing he could not comment on the situation and did not know when the case would be resolved.

“I don’t want to speculate before we have the investigation result,” Tenenti said. Investigators are canvassing the scene and searching for evidence and witnesses, he said, and they will take as much time as they need to close their cases.

“We are going to let our investigators work and wait for the results,” Tenenti said. “Whatever time it takes.”

The attack comes during a time when UNIFIL has been on edge over an increased threat warnings about possible attacks. The Daily Star reported in October that UNIFIL officials in Naqoura were receiving almost daily nonspecific information about threats to peacekeepers.

Tension in south Lebanon has also ratcheted up as Arab and Western states have increased pressure on the Syrian regime over its crackdown on opposition protesters. Syria supports resistance against Israel in south Lebanon and pro-Syrian pundits have forecast violent retaliations against Western powers in the region for their moves against the regime.

Political analysts told The Daily Star the most recent bombing was likely related to the Syrian unrest.

This year’s attacks are a resumption of hostilities against the U.N. force that last picked up between 2007 and 2008. Six Spanish UNIFIL peacekeepers were killed in June 2007 and two Irish soldiers were wounded in January 2008, after UNIFIL expanded their presence following the July 2006 war.

The Lebanese judiciary blamed the militant organization Fatah al-Islam for the deadly 2007 bombing. The group has been accused of plotting attacks from inside Palestinian refugee camps.

There have been 292 fatalities of peacekeepers serving with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978.

Attacks against U.N. forces have caused some Western countries to reconsider their force contributions to the UNIFIL mission.

Once the largest force contributor, Italy decided to reduce the country’s force size in Lebanon by a third after the May and July attacks. – With additional reporting by Youssef Diab

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 12, 2011, on page 2.

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