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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

French Recon Soldier Killed On Chad-Sudan Border

EU Chad force to recover missing soldier's body (By Moumine Ngarmbassa)

N'DJAMENA, March 5 (Reuters) - The European Union's military force in Chad is sending a team to Sudan to recover a body which officials there believe is that of a French soldier killed after he strayed over the border, the EU force said on Wednesday.

If the soldier is confirmed dead, it will be the first fatal casualty suffered by the EU force (EUFOR) since it started deploying in late January on a U.N.-backed mission to protect refugees and civilians in conflict-torn eastern Chad.

  • The French special forces soldier went missing on Monday after he and a colleague accidentally crossed the Sudanese border in a vehicle near Tissi in the remote region near the Chad, Sudan and Central African Republic frontiers.
  • They were fired on by Sudanese troops.
  • The other French soldier was wounded but was able to rejoin EU forces.
  • France and the EU have apologised to Sudan for the frontier violation.
  • EUFOR spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Poulain said Sudanese authorities had informed EU officials that their forces had found a body in the area where the clash took place.
  • The body was being transported to the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
  • Ali al-Sadig, a spokesman for Sudan's Foreign Ministry, confirmed the body was in Khartoum and said the French would "confirm whether it is the missing soldier or not".

Monday's incident is embarrassing for EUFOR, as its mission in Chad does not include trying to secure the long, porous Chad-Sudan frontier, and much less confronting Sudanese troops.

  • The force's mandate is to protect some half a million Sudanese refugees and Chadian civilians who have fled violence spilling over from Sudan's Darfur region.
  • "It's unfortunate this happened now, but one of the goals of this reconnaissance is precisely to check out the terrain, especially the frontier, because the maps are rather imprecise," Poulain told Reuters by telephone. He said the EU soldiers' crossing into Sudan had been accidental.
  • It had occurred in a rugged bush area with no clear demarcation between the converging frontiers of Chad, Sudan and Central African Republic.

One of the patrol vehicles, which Poulain said carried EUFOR markings, crossed into Sudan without realising it. "It was halted by Sudanese forces and when the others in the patrol came to rescue it, they came under fire," Poulain said.

The French soldier wounded in the clash found his way back to Chadian territory, while the other went missing. His body was thought to be the one recovered by the Sudanese forces.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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