A communique from the Élysée Palace this morning confirmed that two French soldiers “lost their lives in saving many others” during a skirmish in Bangui, Central African Republic last night.
The names of the French victims have not yet been released but they were from the 8th marine infantry parachute regiment of Castres.
French President François Hollande – currently in South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela – said that he would be going to the lawless Central African Republic himself, where 1,600 French soldiers have been deployed since last Thursday. These are the first French soldiers to die on this current mission. The incident took place close to the airport in Bangui when a patrol came under attack from armed men.
“Operation Sangaris” in which the French are involved along with 6,000 troops from various African countries, is officially an intervention with a stated humanitarian goal of disarming all the armed groups in the CAR, bring stability back to the country and assisting in organising free and pluralist elections to replace the current regime.
Thus far, the arrival of the French expeditionary force is reported to have been met largely with open arms and applause from the populace of a republic that most observers class as a barely-functioning country, whose inhabitants are at the mercy of whatever armed grouping is the most powerful in their area.
BELOW: An AFP video shows French troops in a village in Central African Republic disarming and arresting with the help of locals