UNIFIL dismisses speculation over attack; investigation progressing and no change in troop strength

29 May 2011

UNIFIL dismisses speculation over attack; investigation progressing and no change in troop strength

(29 May 2011, Comments by UNIFIL Spokesperson Neeraj Singh on attack that injured six peacekeepers)

Asked whether UNIFIL sees a political message in the explosive attack that injured six Italian peacekeepers on Friday 27 May and if this could be linked to regional developments, he said:

"It would be irresponsible at this stage to speculate on such issues. We should base our assessment on facts. Now we have an investigation ongoing and UNIFIL's forensics and investigation teams are working in close cooperation with their counterparts in the Lebanese army to determine all the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.

The investigation is progressing well and we hope that this will lead to identification of the perpetrators of the attack so that they can be brought to justice. We should wait for the investigations to bring out all the facts relating to the incident. Until such time any statements not based on facts would be prejudicial to the investigations and to security."

Asked about media reports quoting Italian government officials stating that Italy will reduce its troop number in UNIFIL, whether this was related to the explosive attack on Italian soldiers in Lebanon and how such a
reduction would impact on UNIFIL's mission, he said:

"We have no official notification of any reduction in the troop contribution of Italy. However from the media reports it is evident that there are ongoing discussions in Italy on this subject. But these discussions have been ongoing and reported in the media over the past few weeks and so there is no ground for suggesting that the discussions in
Italy were prompted by the incident.

In this context it is pertinent to note that there is no change in the overall strength of UNIFIL's deployment, which is determined in accordance with Security Council resolution 1701. Within this overall strength, there
are routine changes in the composition of troops from different contributing countries. This configuration is worked out by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in consultation with the troop contributing countries.

This is a constant process in all UN peacekeeping missions whereby troops from certain countries are reduced and other countries increase their participation or new troop contributing countries join. What is important
is that in this process the overall strength of UNIFIL is maintained so that we retain our operational capability on the ground to effectively perform our mandated tasks.

For example, in the coming weeks we have a new Irish battalion that will be joining UNIFIL. So in fact in the next month our troop numbers will increase on the ground. We currently have troops from 35 countries serving
in UNIFIL, which is the highest number of troop contributing countries in the history of the Mission. This points to the strong support UNIFIL has from the troop contributing countries as well as from the international community generally for our mission in southern Lebanon."