A SOLDIER is to face disciplinary action as a result of losing his official weapon while on peacekeeping duty in Chad.
The Heckler and Koch 9mm pistol went missing while the soldier was on patrol while serving with the 97th infantry battalion in the African country.
It is one of four weapons to have been reported as either stolen or missing from the Defence Forces in the past four years.
The disappearance of the pistol took place last July but details of the incident did not emerge until the past few days.
A full military investigation was carried out and this led to disciplinary charges against a soldier.
All of the peacekeepers are issued with personal weapons and must be armed each time they leave the military compound.
Army sources said a lot of the soldiers kept their weapons with them at night and every peacekeeper was responsible for his or her firearm.
The other three incidents involved a Steyr rifle from a peacekeeper serving with the Kfor mission in Kosovo in March 2004, a Walther PPK 9mm from the United Nations mission in Liberia in September 2004 and a Steyr rifle, which was lost overboard at sea from the LE Aisling in July 2006.
An investigation was held into each of the incidents but none of the firearms has been recovered. The location of the rifle lost at sea is known but the weapon cannot be recovered.
The Army pointed out that military personnel had access to thousands of firearms but none had either been unaccounted for, reported missing or stolen from stores within the State.
Last September the military authorities issued an instruction that all checks on firearms should be stringently carried out because of the number of replicas in circulation.
Senior officers were concerned that the replica Steyr rifles, which were described as remarkably similar, could be substituted in stocks to cover up the theft of the army's standard rifle.
However, checks at barracks around the country confirmed that no weapons were missing.
A Defence Forces spokesman said the instruction had been issued as a precaution.
A weekly check on all military weapons is carried out nationwide and additional audits under the eye of a commanding officer are completed on a monthly basis.
"We had no evidence or intelligence suggesting any attempt would be made to replace some of our stocks with replicas and merely took precautionary steps," a spokesperson said.