• France's news in English

Al-Qaeda in 'plausible' claim over French deaths

AFP/The Local · 7 Nov 2013, 08:57

Published: 07 Nov 2013 08:57 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"We're in the process of verifying it, but it seems plausible," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French television on Thursday, referring to the claim over the murders of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in the flashpoint northeastern town of Kidal on Saturday.

Al-Qaeda's north African division claimed responsibility Wednesday for the murders of two French journalists in Mali's rebel-infested desert, saying they were killed to avenge France's "new crusade" in its former colony.

Ghislaine Dupont, 57, and Claude Verlon, 55, were kidnapped and shot dead by what French officials called "terrorist groups" after interviewing a spokesman for Tuareg separatists in the flashpoint northeastern town of Kidal on Saturday.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in a statement published online by Mauritanian news agency Sahara Medias the killings were "the minimum debt" owed by the French people and President Francois Hollande "in return for their new crusade".

"This operation was a response to crimes committed by France against Malians and the work of African and international forces against the Muslims of Azawad," AQIM said, using the name given by the Tuareg people to northern Mali.

In response, a communications official in the French presidency told AFP the country would "use all its resources to ensure these crimes do not go unpunished, no matter who is responsible."

AQIM said the murders had been carried out by a unit led by Tuareg commander Abdelkrim Targui, who was close to Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of AQIM's main leaders in Mali who was killed fighting the French army in northern Mali in late February.

Abou Zeid, who was 46, was credited with having significantly expanded the jihadist group's field of operations to Tunisia and Niger, and for kidnappings across the region.

The claim came a day after the bodies of the Radio France Internationale (RFI) journalists were flown back to Paris, with French and Malian troops intensifying the hunt for their killers.

A French military patrol found Dupont and Verlon's bodies about 12 kilometres (seven miles) east of Kidal, just hours after they were snatched, lying by the pick-up truck in which they had been abducted.

They had been interviewing a spokesman for the main armed separatist group in the region, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.

The killings have shaken France, which just days earlier was celebrating the return of four hostages who had been held for three years after being abducted by AQIM in Mali's neighbour Niger.

Story continues below…

'Dozens of arrests made'

A French source said seven investigators, including intelligence and police officials, had been sent to Mali to assist in the investigation.

"An inquiry has been swiftly launched. Operations, searches have taken place and investigations are progressing," Hollande told a cabinet meeting in Paris on Wednesday, according to government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

A member of the Malian security forces said on Tuesday that "at least 35" suspects had been arrested over the previous 48 hours in connection with the murders, while a local government source in Kidal put the figure at "a few dozen".

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
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
jobs available