French president François Hollande has confirmed that two soldiers were killed in overnight fighting in the Central African Republic.
A statement from his office spoke of Hollande’s support for the French troops in the CAR:
“The head of state expresses his deep respect for the two soldiers’ sacrifice and 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.”
These are the first French casualties since troops were deployed to the country in a UN-backed operation on Friday.
The French defense minister has since issued a statement reaffirming that the 1,600 soldiers will be able to stabilise the situation in the CAR.
Bloody, inter-communal clashes have taken place in the capital Bangui since rebel leader Michel Djotodia ousted President François Bozize in March.
Mosques have been attacked and cars burnt during conflict between Christians and mainly Muslim Seleka rebels; fighting that has reportedly claimed up to 465 lives since Thursday alone.
On Monday, the French armed forces launched an operation in conjunction with African peacekeepers. Its aim is to forcibly disarm militiamen and the predominantly Muslim fighters who consider themselves part of the new national army.
President Hollande is due to travel to Bangui later on Tuesday, after the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
US president, Barack Obama has apparently also offered his support for the mission.