PARIS (Reuters) - Investigators in Ivory Coast have unearthed a body which they say may belong to Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer, who went missing in country’s economic capital Abidjan in 2004, his brother told France 3 television on Friday.
The team of French and Ivorian investigators have sent samples from the body, exhumed in the Issia region several hundred kilometers (miles) to the northeast of Abidjan, to France for genetic identification tests.
“Judge (Patrick) Ramael started the excavations this morning on the basis of information obtained some time ago and he found a body in the exact spot where the informer had indicated,” Bernard Kieffer told France 3.
Lieutenant Alassane Doumbie, Ivory Coast army chief of operations in the Issia region said that villagers told him three months ago that they had witnessed the “strange burial of white man” in Yaokro, about 20 km (12 miles) from Issia.
“I carried out investigations and discovered a grave ... the body had been summarily buried on the outskirts of the village,” Doumbie told Reuters by telephone.
“I told French military authorities and they put me in touch with the judge handling the case. He came here this afternoon and we exhumed the body which is that of Kieffer, but this has yet to be confirmed by further testing in Abidjan,” he said.
He said the remains would be taken to Abidjan later on Friday, accompanied by Ramael, who has been investigating the case, and would be examined there by authorities.
French investigators are following up allegations of a political link in Kieffer’s disappearance involving members of the entourage of former President Laurent Gbagbo.
Gbagbo was captured in April, 2011 in Abidjan by fighters loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara after four months of civil war following a disputed presidential election, in which more than 3,000 people were killed and one million displaced.
Ouattara, who was sworn in as president shortly afterwards, sent his rival to face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court late last year.
Kieffer was believed to be investigating corruption in the cocoa sector of the Ivory Coast - the world’s largest producer - when he disappeared. French investigators have established that he was abducted in a car park in Abidjan on April 16, 2004.
Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Ange Aboa in Abidjan; Writing by Daniel Flynn and Bate Felix; Editing by Louise Ireland