A French photojournalist has been killed while on a reporting assignment in conflict-torn Central African Republic, probably in an ambush, French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday.
Speaking to the press in Tbilisi on his visit to Georgia, Hollande said that the journalist, Camille Lepage, "was taking photographs, doing her job and no doubt fell into an ambush".
Her body was found by a patrol of French peacekeeping troops, who were checking a vehicle driven by "anti-balaka" militia in the region of Bouar, in the west of Central Africa, a French presidency statement said, referring to militamen from the mainly Christian vigilante group.
Lepage was 26 and worked as a photographer for Hans Lucas, a studio based in Paris, according to its website.
Her death comes six months after two French journalists for RFI radio were killed in Mali.
A French military source said Lepage was with the anti-balaka militia for her reporting when they were ambushed by armed groups in the region two days ago.
"She was killed by gunfire and her body was recovered by the anti-balaka along with those of their comrades," said the source who requested anonymity, adding that an inquiry was under way into the exact circumstances of her death.
Hollande has ordered the immediate dispatch of a French team as well as African police deployed in Central Africa to the scene to ensure that all measures are taken to find and punish the assailants.
Lepage's mother told French media that her daughter was "an exceptional girl" who wanted to be "a witness to people that are not talked about and who are in danger".
She said her daughter had left for Central Africa in September. "She wasn't afraid."
Deeply impoverished Central Africa has been gripped by crisis since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March 2013 coup, but then were replaced with an interim government in January.
Splinter groups of Seleka rebels, however, embarked on a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting members of the Christian majority to form vigilante "anti-balaka" groups.
The two groups have unleashed a wave of tit-for-tat killings that has left thousands dead and close to a million displaced.
Hollande spoke of the violence gripping the former French colony, noting that "at the moment when we learned of the death of this young woman, we also got information of another massacre which took place in Central Africa".
At least 13 people who were burned alive at the weekend in Central Africa when they were rounded up by armed men and barricaded inside a home that was set alight, a police source said Tuesday.
Hollande said that French troops along with European and African forces must continue their work to help restore peace and stability in the conflict-torn country.