French troops killed in African peacekeeping mission

Two French soldiers were killed during peacekeeping operations in the Central Africa Republic on Tuesday. 

The soldiers were killed by warring Christian and Muslim factions in the country, battling for control of the central African nation, according to the Associated Press

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The casualties were the first suffered by French troops since Paris deployed those forces onto the continent last week. 

There are more than 1,000 French troops on the ground, as part of a joint French-African Union-led peacekeeping force. 

Tuesday's casualties came a day after the Pentagon announced plans to provide military support to that joint force. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday ordered American air assets with Africa Command to begin airlifting French troops into Central Africa Republic via Burundi. 

Hagel directed U.S. commanders to assist in the operation after speaking Monday with French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian.

"The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic,” Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said.

Violence in the African nation broke out when Muslim rebels launched an attack on the Christian-controlled capital of Bangui, resulting in roughly 400 people killed last week.