French soldiers accused of minors' abuse

Two French soldiers serving in the African country of Burkina Faso are being suspended over accusations of sexual abuse of minors, authorities said Tuesday.

It is the second case of alleged sexual abuse of minors by French soldiers in Africa to surface in recent months. French officials insisted Tuesday that the Burkina Faso case was unrelated to the earlier one, in Central African Republic, involving different soldiers.

French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the government found out Monday about the accusations against troops serving in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, and on Tuesday informed French judicial authorities and began procedures to suspend them from military duties.

He said the alleged incidents occurred recently, and judicial authorities in Burkina Faso were also informed.

"We consider that the allegations are sufficiently serious that we took the decision to suspend them," he said, adding that the military would have "zero tolerance" for such actions.

France has troops in Burkina Faso and nearby countries as part of a large force fighting extremists in the region.

French judicial authorities opened a preliminary investigation Tuesday into the case, according to Paris prosecutor's office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre.

Thibault-Lecuivre said that the affair came to light after "the mother of a minor came forward to the French Embassy."

French and UN authorities have come under heavy criticism over their handling of the Central African Republic accusations, which were first reported by children to UN officials a year ago, but were not quickly followed up on, and only became public this spring.

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