At least one American veteran has been detained trying to cross from Kenya into South Sudan, an Army official has confirmed to Army Times.
A former Marine, a former soldier and a soldier currently absent without leave from the 82nd Airborne Division were taken into custody Wednesday, as first reported by U.S. Army W.T.F.! Moments, which cited a source at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.
"We are aware of the situation regarding [Pfc.] Alex Zwiefelhofer and are in the process of gathering all of the facts in this matter," Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, an 82nd Airborne spokesman, told Army Times on Thursday evening. "We are coordinating with appropriate U.S. authorities in the area."
Zwiefelhofer, 20, was detained along with Army veteran Craig Austin Lang and former Marine William Wright-Martinovich, a State Department source in Khartoum told W.T.F.! Moments.
South Sudan has been torn apart by a civil war since 2013. A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee, according to the Associated Press.
As the country faces its fourth year of civil war, the fighting shows no signs of ending. Both government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes including mass rape and targeted killings, the AP reported.
South Sudan also has been ravaged by famine, with almost 2 million people on the brink of starvation, according to AP.
A stateside department official would not confirm whether the three were apprehended.
"Whenever a U.S. citizen is detained or otherwise in need of assistance overseas, the department works to provide all appropriate consular assistance," the official said on background, because they were not authorized to speak on the record. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment."
The three are reportedly in Kenyan national police custody while the State Department and FBI investigate, according to W.T.F.! Moments.
Meanwhile, the 82nd Airborne is working to extradite Zwiefelhofer back home to face military justice.
"We are working with the U.S. authorities in the area and trying to coordinate his movement to military control," Buccino said.
Zwiefelhofer joined the Army in 2015 and was assigned to the 82nd's 2nd Brigade Combat Team when he went AWOL last October. Activity on his Facebook page indicates he was in Ukraine that month.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.