• France's news in English

French journalists found dead after Mali kidnap

AFP · 3 Nov 2013, 09:34

Published: 03 Nov 2013 09:34 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were on their way to interview a spokesman for the Tuareg rebel group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in the rebel stronghold of Kidal when they were abducted outside his home, RFI said.

"RFI journalists Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were found dead in Mali," the French foreign ministry said in a statement, adding they were kidnapped by an "armed group".

"The French government, in conjunction with the Malian authorities, will make every effort to find out   as soon as possible about the circumstances of their death," said the statement, confirmed by a Malian security source.

"In these tragic circumstances, France expresses its sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the two victims," the ministry added.

French President Francois Hollande called a meeting of his ministers for Sunday, voicing his "indignation" over the killings.

RFI said Dupont and Verlon were abducted at 1pm outside the home of MNLA spokesman Ambery Ag Rhissa.

The station quoted Ag Rhissa as saying he "heard a suspicious noise" of gun butts hitting the reporters' car as they arrived.

"He half opened his door and saw the kidnappers put the journalists into a beige 4X4," RFI said.

According to Ag Rhissa, the kidnappers wore turbans and spoke the Tuareg language of Tamashek, RFI said.

They "ordered Mr Ag Rhissa to get back inside and forced the journalists' driver to lie down", RFI said, adding that Ag Rhisaa had heard Verlon and Dupont protest.

"This is the last time that the journalists were seen," RFI said.

The station described Dupont, 51, as "passionate about her job and the African continent she had covered since joining RFI in 1986", adding that staff were "in shock".

It said Verlon, 58, who had been at RFI since 1982, was a seasoned journalist who was "used to difficult terrain across the world".

Moussa Ag Assarid, the MNLA's spokesman in Europe, told the French i-Tele news channel the journalists had been abducted by "unknown elements".

"We condemn this despicable act and offer our condolences to the families and to the French people," he said.

Several sources cited by RFI said the kidnappers fled with the reporters towards Tin Essako, a village 115 kilometres (70 miles) to the east.

The town of Kidal, situated more than 1,500 km northeast of Bamako, near the Algerian border, is the traditional homeland of the Tuareg people and the birthplace of the MNLA's rebellion.

Dupont, who had been in Kidal earlier in the year to report on the presidential elections, left Bamako for the north on Tuesday for special reports on Mali due to be broadcast by RFI on November 7th and 8th.

A French government source said the journalists had asked to be taken to Kidal with troops from France's Operation Serval mission but ended up going with the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping force.

"Several days ago, the two journalists had asked to be transported to Kidal by the Serval force. It refused, as it has done for a year, because of the insecurity in the area," the source said.

"But they took advantage of a transportation from MINUSMA, which continues to accept journalists."

The MNLA took control of Kidal in February after a French-led military intervention ousted Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters who had seized control of most of northern Mali.

The Malian authorities finally reclaimed the city after signing a deal with the MNLA and another Tuareg group on June 18 aimed at reuniting the country and clearing the way for elections to restore democratic rule.

Story continues below…

Under the deal, MNLA forces moved into barracks as regular Malian troops were deployed to secure Kidal.

Many Malians accuse the light-skinned Tuareg of being responsible for the chaotic sequence that saw the country split in two for nine months -- with the northern half ruled by groups that imposed an extreme form of Islamic law -- and shattered what had been considered a democratic success story in the restive region

When the MNLA launched their offensive in January 2012, they humiliated the Malian army by seizing a string of northern towns.

Mid-level army officers angry over the losses then overthrew president Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012, blaming him for the army's weak response.

The coup unleashed a crisis that saw the Tuareg separatists seize Mali's vast desert north along with a trio of Islamist groups that then proceeded to chase out the MNLA and impose brutal sharia rule on their territory, until the French-led intervention forced them out.

Mali has since been battling to restore a measure of stability, having elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to lead the country into parliamentary polls planned for November 24th.

The High Council for the Unity of Azawad, another Tuareg group present in Kidal, released a statement condemning the killings in "the strongest terms".

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available