International
Sylvain Cherkaoui/Cosmos

French photojournalist Camille Lepage killed in Central African Republic

The 26-year-old photographer had worked in conflict-torn African countries since graduating college

The French President's office said Tuesday that 26-year-old French photographer, Camille Lepage, on assignment in the Central African Republic has been killed.

The statement confirmed the death of Camille Lepage, who had been covering crisis in one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries for months. Central African Republic descended into chaos a year ago when an alliance of mostly Muslim opposition groups in the country's north overthrew Francois Bozize, who had been the president for a decade.

Colleagues in the capital city of Bangui said Lepage had been traveling in a village about 37 miles west of Bouar, near the country's border with Cameroon, when she was caught in fighting.

"The corpse of [Camille] Lepage was found after a patrol by [French] Sangaris troops stopped a car driven by Christian ‘anti-Balaka’ groups, in the Bouar region," the statement said.

"Everything will be done to uncover the circumstances of this assassination and to track down who murdered our compatriot," it said.

The U.N. Security Council as well as the Committee to Protect Journalists have called for an immediate investigation into her death. 

Lepage had sold her photos to a number of news agencies and French publications while working as a freelancer.

She had recently been selected for a prestigious New York Times portfolio review and workshop.

A native of Angers, France, she also had worked extensively in Juba, South Sudan.

“What fascinates me about photography is its universal language,” Lepage told photo website PetaPixel in an interview last year. “Unlike other media, anyone can understand a picture, feel it, it speaks to the viewers … I feel that [a] picture you love lives in you, you can think about it, and [it can get you] where the photographer was, which is amazing.”

In Central African Republic, the rule of the opposition coalition known as Seleka was marked by atrocities, including tying victims together and throwing them off bridges into rivers to drown or be eaten by crocodiles.

Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader-turned-president, stepped down from power in January amid mounting international pressure. Since then, the country's Muslim minority population, which had made up the Seleka government, has been targeted in often brutal retaliatory violence at the hands of a Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled for their lives in convoys to neighboring Chad.

“I'm in shock,” Agence France Presse chief East Africa photographer Carl de Souza told Al Jazeera. “I was in touch with her a lot giving her feedback. She was improving her style at such a fast rate, just absorbing everything. [She was at] that wonderful stage when you start out as a photographer and every single thing is so mesmerizing, inspiring and amazing. … My deepest sympathies go out to her family.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

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