Two French soldiers killed in C. African Republic

PARIS/BANGUI Tue Dec 10, 2013 3:25pm IST

Related Topics

A statue of Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, is carried in a taxi to a place of worship on the first day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival

During Ganesh Chaturthi idols will be taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, and will be immersed in a river or the sea in accordance with Hindu faith.  Slideshow 

PARIS/BANGUI (Reuters) - Two French soldiers were killed in overnight fighting in Central African Republic, France's first casualties in an operation to restore stability in its former colony, the French government said on Tuesday.

The country has descended into chaos since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March and embarked on months of looting, raping and killing. Seleka's leader, Michel Djotodia, installed as the interim president, has lost control of his loose band of fighters.

The soldiers' deaths were announced just before French President Francois Hollande's office said he would make a quick stop-over in the capital Bangui on his way back from a memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

"The head of state expresses his deep respect for the two soldiers' sacrifice," his office said in a statement.

"He renews his full support for French forces alongside African forces as they restore security in the Central African republic, protect the population and guarantee access to humanitarian aid," it said.

The 1,600-strong French force battled gunmen in Bangui on Monday in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible for killing hundreds since last week.

French officials said on Monday night they had restored some stability to Bangui although shooting had broken out when gunmen refused to hand over weapons.

The two French soldiers, marine paratroopers from the 8th Regiment based in Castres, died when they came under attack during an overnight patrol, parliament speaker Claude Bartolone told reporters.

"They were injured and quickly brought to a surgical unit, but unfortunately could not be saved," he said.

According to one African peacekeeper in Bangui, a rebel commander was harassing people, who called the French to come and help them.

"They came and tried to disarm the Seleka but gunfire erupted," the peacekeeper said.

At least 465 people have been killed in Bangui alone since Thursday, according to Red Cross officials.

Hollande began boosting the number of French troops in the country last Thursday immediately after the U.N. Security Council authorised France to use lethal force to help African peacekeepers, who have been struggling to restore order.

France has lost seven soldiers in a separate operation in Mali, where it sent troops in January to drive back militants threatening to take the capital of Bamako.

Central African Republic is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but despite such resources, most people remain poor. The country has seen little stability in five decades and France has intervened more since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies.

It also lies at a crossroads of conflict in the heart of Africa, with Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia to the east, the Islamist threat in the Sahel region to the north and the revolts of the Great Lakes to the southeast. (Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier in Paris and Emmanuel Braun in Bangui; Editing by Mark John, James Regan and Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Pakistan Protests

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Book Talk

Book Talk

Reema Abbasi and a glimpse of Pakistan’s Hindu past  Full Article 

Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine Crisis

Fighting goes on near big Ukrainian city, Poroshenko slams Russia   Full Article 

Mideast Conflict

Mideast Conflict

Israel claims West Bank land for possible settlement use, draws U.S. rebuke  Full Article 

Iraq Human Rights

Iraq Human Rights

UN debate on Iraq hears of atrocities committed by both sides  Full Article 

Syria War

Syria War

Fighting erupts between Syrian army, rebels on Golan Heights  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage