x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jordanians mourn those lost in Haiti

The bodies of five 'blue beret' peacekeepers killed on Friday in an air crash are returned home.

The mother of Jordanian soldier Belal Abu Hajeeleh mourns with her son and daughter in front of the ambulances with the bodies at Queen Alia airport on October 15, 2009 upon the arrival of the body of her son dead with other five Joranian soldiers, during a plane crash in a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti last Friday.
The mother of Jordanian soldier Belal Abu Hajeeleh mourns with her son and daughter in front of the ambulances with the bodies at Queen Alia airport on October 15, 2009 upon the arrival of the body of her son dead with other five Joranian soldiers, during a plane crash in a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti last Friday.

AMMAN // Um Bilal abu Hjeileh, the mother of one of the five Jordanian peacekeepers killed on Friday in Haiti, begged a soldier to open her son's casket so she could take one last look before an ambulance took him away for burial. "I just want to have one last look to bid him farewell," she told the guard, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"The last time we talked was one day before his death. I asked him how he was doing, and then the line was cut off," she said. The five were killed along with six Uruguayan military personnel when their plane crashed into a mountain during a weekly surveillance flight near the border with the Dominican Republic. A ceremony for the repatriation of the peacekeepers' bodies took place yesterday. Their bodies arrived yesterday at 12.20pm at Queen Alia International Airport south of Amman on a Jordanian Aviation commercial flight.

Grieving relatives wiped away their tears when soldiers carrying five coffins draped in the Jordanian flag marched in step in front of them. King Abdullah and Queen Rania and senior military officials stood to attention as the procession passed by. When the memorial ceremony was over, each family buried its dead separately in their hometowns after afternoon prayers. "We are very proud that the martyrs sacrificed their lives to the country and the king," said Haitham abu Hjeileh, Bilal's brother.

The five "blue berets" protected borders and provided relief to storm and hurricane victims. Most of them went to Haiti three months ago and were scheduled to return in three months as part of a six-month mission. The latest death toll brings to 25 the number of Jordanian peacekeepers killed since the country began taking part in UN peacekeeping missions in 1989. It was the largest single loss of Jordanian lives in 20 years of service in UN peacekeeping missions.

The Haiti mission was established in June 2004 after the bloody removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president. It was scheduled to end this month, but was just extended for another year. "Jordan is a founding member and is such a key member of the UN, not just for what it has done in the region in the cause of peace, but globally. Jordanian peacekeepers worked on our mission throughout the world and a day like this just reminds us that the sons of Jordan are making sacrifices in the cause of global peace," said Imran Riza, the acting resident coordinator for the UN in Jordan.

"It is a very sad day. I am here representing the UN family in Jordan; we are extremely privileged and proud to work with our Jordanian counterparts. Today we remember what an important role Jordan has played globally in trying to help the cause of the UN in the most difficult places where we work and in some of the most difficult missions that we have," he said. smaayeh@thenational.ae