Two French soldiers killed in Central African Republic

Deaths come as France and the UN begin disarming rebel militia after fierce fighting

LAST UPDATED AT 09:05 ON Tue 10 Dec 2013

Two French soldiers have been killed in overnight clashes with militia in the Central African Republic, President François Hollande's office confirmed today. 

"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," his office said in a statement. 

French troops deployed to the Central African Republic last Friday after a UN resolution begun disarming rebels in the capital Bangui yesterday. 

The Red Cross reports that at least 394 people have been killed in three days of heavy fighting.

"Had we not intervened, the 394 deaths would have been 5,000 or 10,000," Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, told the France 3 TV channel.

The UN-backed resolution will allow international troops to restore order using "any and all necessary measures," French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. "First we'll ask nicely and if they don't react, we'll do it by force. The period of impunity is at an end."

Before the UN intervention, observers had warned that the country was “on the verge of genocide”.

Reuters reported a brief exchange of fire between French troops and Seleka rebels yesterday morning, but French troops soon seized control of key parts of Bangui.

The troops have set up road blocks and begun extensive searches and patrols across the city.

About 1, 600 French military personnel have been deployed to the country to support an African Union force of up to 6,000 troops.

Journalists and aid workers in the region describe ‘suffering beyond imagination’ as a major humanitarian disaster continues to unfold.  · 

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