President François Hollande vowed on Thursday to make an example of any French troops found guilty of child sex abuse in Central African Republic as a judicial source said as many as 14 could be implicated, reports Reuters.
The allegations, which came to light this week when Britain's Guardian newspaper published extracts of an internal U.N. report, risks damaging the reputation of France's peacekeeping operations in Africa.
A judicial source who requested anonymity told Reuters that an initial reading of the full report suggested 14 soldiers had been involved in alleged abuse between December 2013 and June 2014. Subsequent French inquiries identified some of them, the source said, adding that none had been questioned yet.
"If this information is confirmed ... the punishment will be proportionate to the deeds. If they are serious, the punishment will be harsh," Hollande told reporters during a visit in western France. "I will be implacable."
Hollande is a strong advocate of using French military might to secure peace in ex-colonies such as Central African Republic or Mali, where he received a rapturous welcome in 2013 after France intervened to halt an Islamist insurgency.
France's defence ministry said the abuse was alleged to have taken place at a center for displaced people at M’Poko airport in the capital Bangui and involved about 10 children. It said it would take "all necessary measures" to establish the truth.