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French soldiers questioned over Central Africa rape allegations
Four French soldiers were questioned in relation to accusations of paedophilia in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday in Paris, sources say. They are the first members of the French military to be questioned in the investigation, which started last year.
One of the soldiers, members of an infantry regiment based in Colmar, eastern France, was detained, while the others were questioned in the presence of lawyers, according to legal sources.
Investigators took statements from 11 children and several NGO workers in the CAR in July.
The French UN employee who wrote the report that brought the accusations to light is to be interviewed later this month after the UN has lifted her diplomatic immunity, sources say.
The accusations relate to alleged cases of statutory rape by members of the French military force in the CAR in a displaced persons' camp in the capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014.
They were initially made by six children aged between nine and 13 but others have since come forward.
Although he ordered the army to launch an internal inquiry after hearing of the accusations in July 2014, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has come under fire for keeping the accusations under wraps until they were made public by UK newspaper The Guardian in the spring.