Witnesses in a refugee camp in Central African Republic's capital say French soldiers who were supposed to protect civilians sexually assaulted young children.

People living inside the camp near the airport spoke out Thursday, a day after French prosecutors military authorities said they were investigating allegations of sexual abuse in Bangui, the capital.

The mother of one of the children told The Associated Press that young boys were sexually abused after approaching the French soldiers for food.

French soldiers first arrived in late 2013 amid sectarian violence that prompted tens of thousands to seek refuge on the grounds of the capital's airport.

The investigations have been underway since last July but were only made public Wednesday. The chief prosecutor in Bangui has also launched an investigation.