(Reuters) - Central African Republic's minister for youth and sport was kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen in the capital, Bangui, as he returned from church, an official said.

The seizure of Armel Ningatoloum Sayo follows the brief kidnapping earlier this week of a U.N. staff member and a French charity worker, highlighting insecurity in the country despite the presence of French and U.N. peacekeepers.

Tatiana Yangeko, Sayo's spokeswoman, said the minister was driving his wife and his brother back from church when four unidentified gunmen in a taxi stopped their vehicle in Bangui's 8th arrondissement, in the north of the capital.

"They got out of the taxi, shot in the air and forced the minister out of his car. They fled with him towards Boy Rabe," Yangeko said, referring to a neighbourhood that is a stronghold of the 'anti-Balaka' militia.

"We have told the prime minister," she added.

Central African Republic has been gripped by violence since the northern, mainly Muslim Seleka alliance rebelled and seized power in March 2013. The group was forced to stand aside last year having failed to contain clashes with the 'anti-Balaka' militia and the waves of tit-for-tat violence that went with the fighting.

Seleka rebels still occupy much of the north and the interim government is still struggling to stamp its authority on the country. But France has started withdrawing some troops as the U.N. force, due to reach 10,000 by the end of April, deploys ahead of elections due later this year.