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Daily Archives: April 9, 2009

Saharan manhunt underway for ‘Rambo’ legionnaire

Helicopters led an international military manhunt yesterday for an armed, psycopathic foreign legionnaire who killed four people in Chad and fled across the southern Sahara on a stolen horse.
"The guy is dangerous because he is armed and he has a psychological problem," a French military source told AFP on condition of anonymity. "He will have been trained in desert survival techniques, which will make it all the harder to find him."
The soldier was attached to a European force in the central African desert state, and killed two fellow legionnaires late Tuesday plus a Togolese soldier operating within a UN force that is taking over peacekeeping operations.
The killings took place inside their military camp, with the runaway legionnaire then killing a civilian for his horse and taking flight between Abeche and Guereda in north-eastern Chad towards Sudan, his superiors said.
French Defence Minister Herve Morin told France Info radio that soldiers are searching for the unnamed man "with everything at our disposal" including help from the Chadian authorities, but that they had yet to locate his whereabouts.
Helicopters were scouring the arid terrain – with just enough trees to enable him to hide from daylight aerial surveillance – as troops from EUFOR, the UN's MINURCAT mission and Chad, as well as local police, hunted the fugitive.
The French military source said the legionnaire could last several days on the run even in such difficult conditions.
"We teach them to last several days in difficult conditions and he will be better equipped than a cadet fresh out of university, but we're not talking about Rambo, or the type you see in certain films," the source stressed.
Morin said the authorities had no explanation for the soldier's killing spree "other than that he flipped" and described the man's actions as "totally out of order and intolerable."
The minister insisted that the soldier had undergone a series of psychiatric tests before being accepted into the Legion in February 2007 and that none of their psychiatric examinations had hinted at such capacities.
"His marks were good," Morin added.
Captain Christophe Prazuck of the French military high command described the man as "deranged" on Tuesday.
"Gunshots were heard in the (military) camp and then the two legionnaires were found and then a little further away the body of the Togolese soldier was discovered," he said.
Some 5,200 peacekeepers from the UN's MINURCAT mission are now charged with protecting refugees from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, as well as others fleeing a rebel insurgency in Chad and the northern Central African Republic.
But roughly 2,000 members of the European force will remain for a few more months under the UN beret until African and Nepalese units arrive.

Aftershocks rattle Italy quake zone, toll hits 260

The death toll in central Italy's earthquake has risen to 260 including 16 children, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday.
Earlier strong aftershocks rocked the Italian city of L'Aquila shortly before dawn yesterday, when the hunt for survivors of the quake that has claimed at least 260 lives was set to resume.
The latest aftershock struck around 6:30 am (0430 GMT), after a series of tremors overnight rattled the city nestled in the Appennine mountains that was the epicentre of Monday's 6.2-magnitude quake.
Civil protection services have set up 31 tent cities and 24 field kitchens and deployed 14 ambulatory medical units, he said during his third visit to the quake zone since the disaster struck Monday.
A total of 17,772 people are sheltering in 2,962 tents at the camps dotted around the Abruzzo capital L'Aquila, he said in televised remarks..
"Of the 260 victims, nine have yet to be identified," the prime minister said, confirming that a state funeral would be held today in L'Aquila.
Berlusconi said he planned to introduce new legislation against looting at a disaster site, saying it would be a crime "carrying very, very severe punishment."
Several people have been arrested while trying to burgle abandoned homes in L'Aquila.
Most of the 17,000 people made homeless by the quake spent the night in tent camps that have sprung up around L'Aquila a, the capital of the central Abruzzo region, but some people spent a second night in their cars.
Police patrolled the historic town centre overnight to protect abandoned apartments and businesses against looters.
Some 100 out of the 1,000 people injured were reported to be still in serious condition.
Rescuers were set to resume at dawn the increasingly desperate hunt for survivors more than 48 hours after the quake that devastated the historic mountain city and 30 kilometres in all directions.
The nearby villages of Villa Sant'Angelo and Borgo di Castelnuovo were practically wiped out.
Volunteer groups joined professional rescue teams with mechanical diggers who used sniffer dogs to locate victims.
"We're a bit tired, but still very active," said Fabrizio Curcio, director of the Civil Protection emergency bureau, which is coordinating rescue work from a gymnasium on the outskirts of L'Aquila.
"Frankly, fatigue is not a major concern … We're running on adrenalin."
Italy is criss-crossed by two fault lines, making it one of Europe's most quake-prone regions, with some 20 million people at risk.