Carlos trapped after secret deal between France and Sudan: Richard Dowden and Charles Richards trace the undercover ties which sealed the terrorist's fate

LINKS between the French secret service and Sudanese security chiefs have been developing for almost a year but the details which emerged yesterday pose as many questions as they answer.

Which state put Carlos on a plane to the sleepy confluence of the White and Blue Niles? Why, and why did it take so long to apprehend him? And who were the mysterious Arab nationals identified as Carlos' fellow travellers?

Reports emerged yesterday of favours and payments made by France to Sudan in exchange for handing over Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - Carlos - undermining denials by French and Sudanese officials that there had been any deal. Contacts between the two governments and their security services have been traced in recent months by diplomatic gossip and specialist journals such as Africa Confidential and the Indian Ocean Newsletter.

In February the latter reported that representatives of several Sudanese ministries, including Defence, and the secret service, had been in Paris many times in past months. 'In addition to the Sudanese generals who visited France's Defence Ministry at the beginning of December and the joint ministerial delegation which in mid- January was trying to get in touch with major industrial companies such as Total and GTM (Les Grands Travaux de Marseille), members of the Sudanese secret service met their French opposite numbers in the DGSE (Direction general de la securite exterieure) four times in as many months . . .', the Newsletter said on 29 January. It added: 'The exchange of intelligence on the situation in Sudan's frontier zones with the Central African Republic, Chad, Uganda and Zaire was at the centre of discussions between French and Sudanese military men.'

In February, Africa Confidential carried a simlar report, describing the rush of Sudanese intelligence officers to Paris as a 'flurry'. It suggested that Paris was using Khartoum to open a dialogue with the Algerian Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front) and to try to curb what the French see as destabilising Islamic tendencies throughout Africa. There is also a commercial aspect involved: Sudan Airlines has recently bought four Airbuses from France and the French oil company Total has a substantial concession in Sudan's undeveloped oil deposits.

Sudan - huge, potentially wealthy and strategically important in East and Central Africa - has become increasingly isolated by Western countries because of its brand of Islamic fundamentalism and accusations that it is harbouring terrorists. For these very reasons it has become a prime target of French influence. Paris offered Khartoum an end to isolation, a resumption of aid and arms, and perhaps a defender on the top table, while for Paris Khartoum offered an extension of French influence in a traditionally Anglophone area, lucrative commercial prospects - and Carlos.

Yesterday, sources in Paris confirmed that el-Fatih Irwa, an East German-trained Sudanese security chief, visited Paris several times this year and is a friend of Colonel Jean Claude Mantion, who was the French 'pro-consul' in the Central African Republic until last year but since appears to have been a personal emissary of Charles Pasqua, the French Interior Minister. Yesterday, the French daily, Liberation, said that Sudanese security chiefs had been in Paris to visit the DGSE, and quoted French officials as saying that satellite pictures of rebel positions in southern Sudan had been given to the Sudan security chiefs by French intelligence officers who had also arranged for Sudanese troops fighting rebels of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army to cross the Central African Republic and Zaire in pursuit of the rebels.

A Sudanese government spokesman in London, however, quoted Mr Pasqua as saying that Sudan had asked for nothing in exchange for the extradition. He added that relations between Sudan and France were excellent; a French- Sudanese commercial and economic co-operation council would soon be set up.

As to where Carlos had come from when he arrived in Khartoum, the French and Sudanese authorities say they cannot reveal such details at present. They only say he was travelling on a forged Arab diplomatic passport. Rumours abound. All the usual suspects are cited: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran. And in the murky world of intelligence, information and disinformation are liberally mixed.

Carlos' last known refuge was Syria, which for long has played host to a rogues' gallery of international ne'er-do-wells, including the Palestinians Ahmed Jibril and Fathi Shkaki. Syria not only provided a base for groups using political violence: it was itself accused by Britain of being behind the attempt in 1986 to blow up an Israeli jet flying out of Heathrow.

Syria would have had a motive in divesting itself of an embarrassment such as Carlos at little political cost. The French and Sudanese authorities agreed to declare that Carlos arrived six months ago or in December, depending on the account. Either date would have coincided with Syria's efforts to show it was not a state sponsor of terrorism, as part of its public relations campaign to prepare for the summit meeting in Geneva in February between Presidents Bill Clinton and Hafez al-Assad.

Syria would not have been able to claim credit for helping the fight against international terrorism without admitting it had harboured Carlos all along. It could, however, have tipped off the French, and told the Americans in full candour that Carlos was no longer lingering in Damascus.

Other countries in the region with a history of backing radical groups, including Iraq, Libya, and Iran, have less interest in currying favour with the international community. Indeed, Libya is still believed to be home to the most notorious assassin of all, Sabri al- Banna, known as Abu Nidal, whose targets have been Palestinian moderates and Britons. And Libya has still not handed over two intelligence agents wanted in connection with the blowing up of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

Carlos did not travel alone. His partner, Magdalena Kopp, left him some time ago and now lives in Venezuela, according to her mother. The international network of which Carlos was the hub was never disbanded, although his Palestinian mentor, Wadi Haddad, died in 1978.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick