May 7, 2015 / 12:47 PM / 3 years ago

Inquiry begins into alleged child abuse in Central Africa by French troops

PARIS (Reuters) - An investigation of alleged child sex abuse by French soldiers in the Central African Republic has begun, Paris prosecutors said on Thursday.

Prosecutors decided to open the investigation after written consultation with the author of a United Nations report that first raised the allegations, the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

A preliminary investigation was opened last July based on the U.N report. That report detailed the alleged abuse from December 2013 to June 2014 at a center for displaced people at M’Poko airport in the country’s capital, Bangui.

The allegations came to light in April after an internal U.N. report summarizing interviews with victims was leaked. The report, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, suggests at least 13 French soldiers, two soldiers from Equatorial Guinea and three Chadian troops had been involved in the alleged abuse.

The six-page document said children who were interviewed alleged they had performed oral sex on the French troops. The soldiers from Equatorial Guinea and Chad were accused of sodomizing children.

The Bangui public prosecutor Ghislain Grezenguet told Reuters on Wednesday local authorities had also opened an investigation after identifying a number of individuals.

France’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday the findings of an internal military inquiry would also be declassified.

France intervened in its former colony about 18 months ago to stem violence between Christian militants and largely Muslim Seleka rebels. It started withdrawing some of its 2,000 troops this year, handing over to U.N. peacekeepers.

President Francois Hollande, a strong advocate of using the French military to secure peace in ex-colonies, has vowed no mercy if the allegations are proven.

Reporting by Chine Labbe; writing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise; editing by John Irish, Larry King

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