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French photojournalist, 26, killed while covering conflict in Central African Republic

FILE - In this file photo taken Oct. 6, 2013 in the Bonga Bonga stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, French photojournalist Camille Lepage smiles with a local dancer. Lepage, 26, was killed while covering the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic Monday May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File)

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FILE - In this file photo taken Oct. 6, 2013 in the Bonga Bonga stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, French photojournalist Camille Lepage smiles with a local dancer. Lepage, 26, was killed while covering the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic Monday May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, File)

BANGUI, Central African Republic - A 26-year-old French photojournalist who had spent months documenting deadly conflict in Central African Republic has been killed, the French presidency said Tuesday.

Camille Lepage, a freelance photographer whose work was published in major French and American newspapers, died in western Central African Republic not far from the border with Cameroon, authorities said.

"All means necessary will be used to shed light on to the circumstances of this murder and to find her killers," the French presidency said in the statement.

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

Lepage's work had appeared in The New York Times as well as in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She also had sold images to French newspapers including Le Monde and Liberation.

Her death comes as the security situation worsens for reporters and photographers in the volatile country; two Central African journalists already have been killed this month in Bangui, the capital.

Lepage's body was found by French peacekeepers inside a vehicle driven by Christian militia fighters, the French statement said. In her last tweet a week ago, Lepage said she was embedding with Christian anti-Balaka fighters who were battling the remnants of a Muslim rebellion known as the Seleka.

"We left at 3:30 a.m. to avoid the Misca (African peacekeeping) checkpoints and it took us 8 hours by motorbike as there is no proper roads to reach the village," she wrote in a photo caption that she tweeted.

"In the region of Amada Gaza, 150 people were killed by the Seleka between March and now. Another attack took place on Sunday killing 6 people, the anti Balaka Colonel Rock decides to send his elements there to patrol around and take people who fled to the bush back to their homes."

A native of Angers, France, Lepage also had worked extensively in Juba, South Sudan before moving to Central African Republic. In an interview with the photography blog PetaPixel, she said she was drawn to covering forgotten conflicts.

"I want the viewers to feel what the people are going through. I'd like them to empathize with them as human beings, rather than seeing them as another bunch of Africans suffering from war somewhere in this dark continent," she said. "I wish they think: 'Why on Earth are those people in living hell; why don't we know about it and why is no one doing anything?' I would like the viewers to be ashamed of their government for knowing about it without doing anything to make it end."

Jerome Delay, chief Africa photographer for The Associated Press, first met Lepage while the two were working in South Sudan and again in Central African Republic. On Tuesday he described her as a "very talented, extremely courageous young woman."

"She was the one who would spend the time on the job to make others understand what was going on in places like Central African Republic and South Sudan," he said.

Lepage had recently travelled to New York for a prestigious portfolio review and a workshop at The New York Times.

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Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.

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Online:

http://camille-lepage.photoshelter.com/#!/portfolio/G0000uiAZaBMItVg

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