UN peacekeeper shot Bangui
Camera footage shows a UN peacekeeper shot down in the Central African Republic (Channel 4)

Dramatic images showing a UN peacekeeper shot down during an anti-looting patrol in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui have been captured on camera by a British journalist.

The UN authorised a joint military operation by France and the African Union (AU), as violent clashes between Christian and Muslim militias plunged CAR into chaos.

Footage recorded by Channel 4 News shows a truck carrying AU peacekeepers speeding on a near deserted road before abruptly pulling up beside vehicle transporting the soldiers.

The African troops jump off the truck and within a moment loud gunfire is heard.

"Almost at once one of the soldiers falls, apparently shot, a few metres forward of our position," Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson wrote on his blog.

"He lies motionless on the road. Their target appeared to be civilians who had run up a side street from the main airport."

The footage recorded by cameraman Stuart Webb ends as the journalists reverse their vehicle and drive off at speed.

It is not clear if the soldier survived the incident. Thomson suggested he could have been the victim of friendly fire.

"I detected no incoming fire and in the chaotic way they opened up it is at least possible he either shot himself or was shot by one of his own men."

More than 500 people have been killed in clashes in the past week.

French paratroopers killed

Meanwhile two French soldiers were shot dead by gunmen in a separate incident in Bangui.

Paratroopers Nicolas Vokaer, 23, and Antoine Le Quinio, 22, were killed during an operation to disarm militiamen hour before President Francis Hollande landed in the capital of France's former colony.

"Antoine and Nicolas died for France on a worthwhile mission. They gave their lives to save the lives of others," Hollande said.

"The mission is dangerous. We know it," Hollande said. "But it is necessary in order to avoid carnage."

Hollande flew to Bangui after attending the memorial service for Barack Obama for South Africa's late president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

France has deployed some 1,600 troops in CAR after violence erupted last week.

Security in CAR deteriorated after Francois Bozize was ousted by current leader Michel Djotodia by a military coup in March.

Djotodia headed the Seleka rebel coalition, which was made up of mostly Muslims, and appointed himself as the first Muslim president of CAR. Half of the country's 4.5m population is Christian, while about 15% is Muslim.

The move sparked the creation of the so-called "anti-balaka" (machete in the local Sango language) Christian self-defence force.

Fighting erupted last week as anti-balaka and Seleka rebels clashed in Bangui. Looting and lawlessness followed. Both factions have been accused of atrocities against the population.

Aid officials said some 100,000 people have been forced from their homes. President Djotodia blamed Bozize for creating the turmoil.

"The current situation is the logical result of what former President Bozize set in motion by freeing prisoners and bandits, distributing weapons of war and machetes in the neighbourhoods of Bangui, and inciting tribalism and religious hatred," Djotodia said.

In the latest violence outbursts a mob on stoned a man to death in the street, armed fighters have abducted and killed hospital patients and a mosque was set on fire.

Hollande Car soldiers
CAR mosque Violence Muslim
Christians loot a mosque in Bangui (Reuters)
Bangui clashes
A Christian youth squats inside a burnt out car in Bangui (Reuters)
Hollande CAR Bangui
French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with a French soldier in CAR (Reuters)