KHARTOUM, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Sudanese police said on Tuesday they had arrested two European tourists for collecting fragments of an asteroid from the country’s northern desert without permission.
The tourists, from France and Belgium, found pieces of an asteroid that crashed to earth in the Abu-Hamad area of Sudan’s remote Northern state, said a statement published by Sudan’s interior ministry.
"This was a clear violation and an illegal act because they didn’t get the right permission from the geological or other relevant authorities," a police spokesman told Reuters.
The statement did not say what charges the Europeans might face.
Scientists tracked a car-sized asteroid as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over northern Sudan’s Nubian desert in October 2008.
Experts from NASA and the University of Khartoum, collected fragments from the site soon afterwards.
They described the find as extremely rare as fragile asteroids usually explode high in the atmosphere and because it was the first time scientists had been able to predict an object was heading to earth and follow it to its final destination.
Sudan has very few tourists, largely thanks to its insecurity, cumbersome visa regulations and the restrictions on visitors’ movements imposed when they arrive. (Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Charles Dick)