French President Francois Hollande headed to the Central African Republic Tuesday, as an operation to disarm rebels claimed the lives of two French soldiers.
"They lost their lives to save many others," Hollande said. He was scheduled to make a stop in Bangui on his way back from Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa.
Once in the African country, Hollande said France's intervention in its former colony was "necessary if one wants to avoid carnage here."
Hollande, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, bowed before the coffins of the soldiers.
The soldiers, killed on the second day of the operation, were the first French casualties since France decided to intervene in the CAR's recent sectarian violence.
The paratroopers appear to have died late on Monday, according to the Associated Press, while conducting a night patrol in the capital Bangui.
More from GlobalPost: The Central African Republic since French intervention
France sent 1,600 troops to CAR last week with the backing of the United Nations. French and African Union troops will help quell the unrest that has persisted between Christians and Muslims since a coup unseated former President Francois Bozize in March.
According to the BBC, a statement from Hollande's office said that the president "expresses his profound respect for the sacrifice of these two soldiers and renews his full confidence in the French forces committed — alongside African forces — to restoring security in the Central African Republic, to protecting the people and guaranteeing access to humanitarian aid."
France's "Operation Sangaris" is currently going door-to-door looking for weapons and for clues as to where rebels might be hiding.
"We're going from A to B, checking all vehicles and some homes, collecting intel," an officer identified as "Ludo" told AFP.
"We seize all weapons. The machetes too are considered weapons, so we confiscate them," he added.