Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 15:45 UK

Chad hunts for rogue legionnaire

Foreign Legionnaires
The French Foreign Legion is renowned as an elite military unit

A manhunt is under way for a French Foreign Legion soldier who killed two comrades and a Togolese UN peacekeeper in eastern Chad, say officials.

Helicopters are leading the search for the rogue soldier, who fled across the southern Sahara on a stolen horse, according to reports.

European peacekeepers said the Togolese soldier and two legionnaires were found dead after gunshots at the camp.

Captain Christophe Prazuck said the "deranged" soldier then fled.

An unnamed local official was quoted as saying the fugitive soldier later shot and killed a Chadian civilian, after fleeing Camp des Etoiles military base in the city of Abeche.

'He flipped'

Both EU peacekeepers and Chadian authorities were involved in the manhunt, Capt Prazuck, of the French military high command, told AFP news agency.

Map of Chad
He will have been trained in desert survival techniques, which will make it all the harder to find him
French military source

Correspondents say terrain in the central African desert state is dotted with the odd tree which could provide cover from aerial surveillance.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin said the soldier had clearly been "seized by a fit of madness".

"He is being actively sought by the French gendarmerie, Chadian authorities and the entirety of troops based in Abeche," said Mr Morin.

The defence minister told France Info radio the authorities had no explanation for the soldier's actions "other than that he flipped". Mr Morin described the man's actions as "totally out of order and intolerable".

The minister also reportedly said the soldier had passed a series of psychiatric tests before being accepted into the Legion in February 2007.

An unnamed military source told AFP: "The guy is dangerous because he is armed and he has a psychological problem.

"He will have been trained in desert survival techniques, which will make it all the harder to find him."

The legionnaires were part of the Eufor force that has for the past year helped to protect refugees from Darfur.

The Togolese soldier was part of a UN mission, which took over peacekeeping operations in Chad last month.

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