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DETROIT — An ice cream man — linked by his own words to the torture killings of two Irish soldiers — is expected in federal court in Detroit on Thursday as the United States tries to deport him to his native Lebanon.

An immigration judge is expected to decide whether Mahmoud Bazzi of Dearborn, Mich., will continue to be held in jail during the deportation process.

Bazzi, 71, was arrested and held July 15 on an immigration violation, apparently for entering the U.S. 21 years ago with someone else's passport. He also is a suspect in the 1980 torture killings of two Irish soldiers and the shooting of a third Irish soldier in Lebanon, but he maintains he is innocent. Bazzi has told the Free Press that a Lebanese military commander forced him to confess to the shootings at the time on television.

Bazzi has made a living in the U.S. in part by selling ice cream from a truck in and around Detroit.

Khaalid Walls, spokesman for the Detroit office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has said the U.S. is looking at the war crimes allegations.

But Bazzi has not been charged in relation to the shooting deaths of Irish privates Derek Smallhorne and Tom Barrett or the wounding of Private John O'Mahony.

For decades, the Irish have supplied army troops to UN peacekeeping efforts. In the late 1970s, Lebanon was embroiled in a civil war and Israel invaded the south after it was attacked. Israel retreated when the United Nations interceded, installing a peacekeeping force near Israel's border. A Christian militia there, allied with Israel, clashed with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The peacekeepers were in the middle.

Privates Smallhorne and Barrett were shot and killed April 18, 1980. O'Mahony was shot twice but survived. The Irish trio were abducted by a band of Lebanese men associated with the Christian militia.

Two eyewitnesses — O'Mahony and an American journalist who also was abducted but was released — have both told the Free Press that Bazzi was the leader of the men who abducted them and took them to an abandoned school. Further, O'Mahony maintains that he saw Bazzi shoot him inside the school.

O'Mahony was left behind, wounded, as a car — with Bazzi allegedly at the wheel — sped off with the two other Irish soldiers. The bodies of those two soldiers turned up later in the day. They had been tortured and shot to death.

Shortly after the killings, Bazzi stood before reporters in Lebanon and claimed credit for their deaths on television, saying it was vengeance for the death of his brother. But in interviews last month, Bazzi said he lied to the cameras. He said he was not the killer but was forced to say he was by a militia commander who threatened to kill his family if he did not. Bazzi admitted to the Free Press that he was at the scene of the abduction but said he left before anyone was harmed.

The event has gotten little to no attention in the U.S. until recently when the abducted American, former Associated Press journalist Steve Hindy, published his eyewitness account. Hindy wrote that Homeland Security had contacted him last summer, saying Bazzi had applied for citizenship in the U.S.

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