Originally published on December 10, 2013
Two French soldiers were killed in Central African Republic during an exchange of fire with rebels on Monday night.
According to one African peacekeeper in Bangui, two marine paratroopers from the 8th Regiment based in Castres were patrolling Bangui's streets when they saw people harassed by a rebel commander calling for help, Reuters reported.
The soldiers tried to disarm the rebels but gunfire started when they refused to hand over the weapons.
"They came and tried to disarm the Seleka but gunfire erupted," the peacekeeper said.
The two soldiers, Nicolas Vokaer (23) et Antoine Le Quinio (22 ), were injured and quickly transferred to a surgical unit, but died from their injuries, Le Parisien reported.
According to reports, they are the first French casualties since France deployed 1,600 soldiers to the CAR to restore stability in its former colony.
The soldiers' deaths were announced just before French President Francois Hollande's office said he would make a stopover in Bangui on his way back from Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa, which he attended on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Since Thursday, At least 465 people have been killed in Bangui, Red Cross officials said. Many of the victims were children.
President Holland started boosting the number of French troops in the country to restore order after receiving the authorization from the U.N. Security Council to use lethal force to help African peacekeepers.
According to Reuters, Central African Republic "has seen little stability in five decades and France has intervened more since independence in 1960 than in any of its former colonies."
The country is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium but despite such resources, the majority of the population still lives in poverty.
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