Sudan intensifies search for missing European peacekeeper
Sudan ordered its armed forces to step up searches for a Western soldier missing in war-torn Darfur for a second day.
KHARTOUM, March 5, 2008 - Sudan on Tuesday ordered its armed forces
to step up searches for a Western soldier missing in war-torn Darfur for a
second day since EU troops in Chad strayed across the border, sparking deadly
Sudanese authorities said they received and welcomed a formal apology from
European officials that some peacekeepers in Chad had "accidentally" crossed
the remote border and opened fire on Sudanese troops.
France appealed to Sudan to help find the French commando, who has been
missing for a second day in war-torn Darfur, as the EU peacekeeping mission in
Chad and French officials voiced growing concern for the man.
"We believe admitting mistakes and apologising is a step in the right
direction and we are ready to cooperate with them in the future," said
Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq.
"EUFOR conveyed to us there was a missing European soldier inside Sudanese
territory," Sadiq said, adding that Sudan had no idea of his whereabouts.
"We have instructed our military units in the area to intensify the search
of this area and, in case they find him, to ensure his safety and bring him to
Khartoum so we look into ways and means of handing him over," Sadiq said.
Army spokesman Osman Mohammed al-Agbash said a Sudanese soldier and a
civilian were killed in the incident, but Sadiq said there was no question of
the missing European facing any disciplinary action in Sudan once found.
There would, however, be an investigation into why the European
peacekeepers opened fire on the Sudanese soldiers, he added.
"We have asked the Sudanese authorities to help us find the missing
soldier," who is serving as part of the EUFOR in eastern Chad and the Central
African Republic (CAR), French Defence Minister Herve Morin said in Paris.
"Naturally, we are worried," Morin said, adding that Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner had contacted the Sudanese government late on Monday.
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Poulain, EUFOR spokesman in Libreville, said the
force "still had no news of the missing soldier.
"The vehicle in which the soldier was crossed the border by accident and
was part of a vanguard of troops preparing for the deployment in Chad," he
In Paris, EUFOR said one soft-skinned Landrover-style vehicle strayed
unintentionally three kilometres (two miles) into Sudan in the Tissi area.
"An attempted recovery of the vehicle was met with hostile fire and they
left the area," it said.
The chief of staff in Paris said the missing soldier was French and that
another French soldier found in the vehicle and lightly wounded was evacuated
by helicopter to a field hospital in the CAR.
Agbash said: "There was a brief exchange of fire when a vehicle carrying
non-African forces entered Sudanese territory and was fired upon. Then three
more non-African forces vehicles arrived ...
"You can't do something twice and say it was a mistake."
Sudan had warned EUFOR it had no mandate to cross the border into Sudan.
Last month, Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of UN peacekeeping operations,
warned that violence between Sudan and Chad fought out by rebel groups on each
side threatened to destabilise the region and could lead to a regional war.
The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur, the
vast region of western Sudan beset by civil war between ethnic rebels and the
government, said it was trying to establish the details of Monday's incident.
The 14-nation EUFOR mission of 3,700 troops to Chad and the CAR deployed
last month after a delay caused by a rebel assault on the Chadian capital.
It has a UN mandate to protect refugees from western Sudan's strife-wracked
Darfur region as well as people internally displaced by rebel insurgency in
Chad and the northern CAR.