French soldier
A French soldier from Operation Barkhane REUTERS/Joe Penney

A French soldier has been jailed for a year by a court in Paris for sexually molesting two young girls aged three and five while he was serving in Burkina Faso in 2015.

Sebastien L, 40, and another soldier were accused of sexually touching two Franco-Burkinabe girls, on 28 June 2015 in a hotel pool in the capital Ouagadougou. He filmed himself touching one of the girls underwater. He befriended the mother of one of the girls, a French woman who invited them to her house.

The two soldiers left the camera behind and the child's mother found the footage on the GoPro camera and alerted the French embassy.

The two soldiers were immediately suspended and sent back to France. FranceInfo reported that only Sebastien L was charged.

Sebastien L admitted he had sexual contact with the girls during the incident and was sentenced to a year in prison followed by a one-year suspended sentence.

He blamed alcohol and the stress of the mission and said he had no explanation for his behaviour.

The court has banned him from any profession involving minors for five years and ordered him to pay several thousand euros in damages to the girls and their families.

On 19 April, French prosecutors had requested a one-year suspended prison sentence in addition to a six-month prison term against the soldier.

Prosecutors had also asked the court to order the soldier to take compulsory counselling to address psychological and alcohol addiction issues.

The alleged child abuser and one of his colleagues were part of a 220-strong contingent France deployed to Burkina Faso as part of a counter-terrorism operation to fight against Islamists. The operation codenamed Barkhane was launched in 2014 in the wake of the 2013 military intervention in Mali.