TWO army vehicles left behind by the Defence Forces in Chad were stolen by African rebels, military sources have said. The ACMAT utility trucks were gifted to the contingent of French armed forces that are still operating in Chad, who planned to use them for range practice.
It is understood the two vehicles had been placed on a range and were to be blown up as part of a training exercise by French forces in Africa.
However, in the time between the vehicles being placed and the exercise actually taking place, local rebels stole them, the Sunday Tribune was told.
Military sources said the vehicles had vanished and that the batteries should probably have been removed prior to dumping them on the range.
One source said: "If you are going to leave vehicles like this lying around, then one of the things you might think about is making them immobile. These trucks may have been deemed surplus to requirements by the Irish Defence Forces but there are some very happy men driving them around Chad now."
The Irish Defence Forces said queries regarding the vehicles "since their transfer" were a matter for the French Armed Forces. A statement from the Irish Defence Forces said: "Two ACMAT utility trucks, both over 15 years old, were subject to a cost benefit analysis during the planning for redeployment of Defence Forces assets from Chad. This cost benefit analysis informed the fiscal appropriateness of redeployment back to Ireland.
"As a result of their service in Chad the vehicles no longer met the Defence Forces' standards for further use at home or overseas from a mechanical and health and safety perspective."
Capt Pat O'Connor said that both the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence had carried out an internal audit to decide what to do with the vehicles. He said: "The Defence Forces received a request from the permanent French Contingent in Chad (who have similar vehicles in their fleet) to consider a donation of the vehicles to them. Approval was conveyed from [the] Department of Defence to embark upon this course of action for cost reasons.
"It is relevant to point out that the vehicles had marginal scrap value that was outweighed by the cost of redeploying them to Ireland by strategic surface means."
The ACMATs were used primarily for troop transport and as a gun tractor. They were unpopular in the Defence Forces for use in Ireland because of their open top but were ideal in Chad.
Bringing the vehicles back would not have added significant cost to the overall operation for returning equipment, military sources said. Most of the Irish Defence Forces vehicles and other kit arrived back in Ireland late last month at the end of a lengthy logistics operation that began in April.