The corpse of a soldier from the European Union force recently deployed in Chad, whose vehicle strayed across the border into Sudan on 3 March, has been found.
“European authorities have informed the local EU Representative in Khartoum that remains discovered near the Chadian border are believed to be that of a French member of the European Peacekeeping Force who has been missing since 3 March,” according to a statement issued by European Force (EUFOR) spokesman in the Chadian capital N’djamena Lieutenant-colonel Patrick Poulain on 5 March.
He said EUFOR is currently making arrangements for the formal identification and recovery of the remains.
The soldier is believed to have been killed by Sudanese soldiers while conducting a patrol around the town of Tissi in the far south east corner of Chad where it borders Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Earlier the French Press Agency (AFP) quoted Sudanese authorities as saying that "white, non-African" forces twice crossed into Darfur on Monday, “sparking deadly exchanges of fire.”
A second French soldier was reportedly wounded but escaped back to Chad.
The head of EUFOR in Chad Lieutenant General Patrick Nash said in a statement on 4 March that he regretted the vehicle “unintentionally” crossing into Sudan.
One diplomat in N’djamena told IRIN that the incident could make some European countries more reluctant to sent troops.
“Some governments, Austria in particular, have already expressed concern about the mission and this incident could tip the balance,” said the diplomat, who did not want to be identified.
Some 14 European countries have agreed to contribute a total of 3,700 troops to the mission but it is dominated by France, Chad’s former colonial power which also has a military base in the country and a cooperation agreement with the government. That is one reason the rebels say they do not view EUFOR as being neutral
The EUFOR spokesman told IRIN that the killing would have no consequences for the further deployment of European forces in Chad, which began in February after delays partly caused by a rebel attack on Chad’s capital N’djamena.
“The first and most important consequence of this incident is that we have lost one of our men,” he said.