Author Topic: Two French Journalists Are Kidnapped and Killed by Gunmen in Mali  (Read 1491 times)

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Offline mayya

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Two French Journalists Are Kidnapped and Killed by Gunmen in Mali

Published: November 2, 2013

DAKAR, Senegal — Two French journalists were kidnapped and killed in northern Mali on Saturday, the French Foreign Ministry said, underscoring the continuing instability of a region retaken from fighters linked to Al Qaeda only eight months ago.

The reporters, Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, worked for Radio France Internationale, a French state-supported broadcaster. They had been interviewing a leader with a separatist group in the town of Kidal in Mali’s unstable desert north.

Gunmen forced the reporters into a truck as they were leaving the leader’s house in the center of town on Saturday afternoon, a ranking officer in Mali’s army said. Their bodies were found shortly after, with their throats slit, about eight miles outside Kidal in the Sahara, the officer, Col. Didier Dacko, said by telephone.

French forces stationed in the town pursued the kidnappers, according to an official with the military in Kidal who insisted on anonymity. “Lots of military vehicles sped out of town,” the official said, “even helicopters.”

The kidnappers apparently realized that “they were not going to make it” with their hostages, at which point they killed them, the official said. They then fled into the hills surrounding Kidal, he said.

A French military spokesman, Col. Gilles Jaron, said a patrol was dispatched from Kidal after French forces there were alerted, and two helicopters were called in from Tessalit, 130 miles to the north. The patrol found the bodies of the journalists about six miles east of Kidal, but French forces never made contact with the kidnappers, he said.

The kidnapping occurred less than a week after four French hostages were released by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in neighboring Niger after being held for over three years in the desert, and on payment of a substantial ransom, according to reports.

The man the two French journalists had been interviewing — Ambeiry Ag Rhissa, an official with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a Tuareg separatist group known by its French initials, M.N.L.A. — heard a strange noise outside his door immediately after they left his home, RFI reported. He saw the journalists being forced into the truck by gunmen in turbans, and trying to resist as the gunmen beat them with rifles, RFI said.

The gunmen were speaking in Tamashek, the language of the nomadic Tuaregs, RFI reported.
The reporters’ driver “heard the two reporters protest and resist,” RFI said. “It was the last time they were seen.”

French and United Nations forces remain stationed in Kidal, and all of northern Mali continues to be a caldron of instability, even though the Malian government in Bamako, nearly 800 miles to the south, is nominally in control.

During the eight-month occupation of northern Mali, Kidal became the headquarters of another Tuareg separatist group, Ansar al-Dine, which made common cause with the Qaeda-linked rebels who were defeated this year by French and Chadian soldiers.

Although it is not certain who the kidnappers were — whether Qaeda-affiliated or members of a Tuareg splinter group — some officials in Kidal say the ransom reportedly paid for the other French hostages “encouraged” them, the official with the military in Kidal said. “That’s the idea that’s circulating in town now: All you have to do is kidnap a Westerner, and you can get millions,” he said.
The French news media reported last week that as much as $34 million had been paid for the release of the four Frenchmen.

Kidal remained a place of contention between the M.N.L.A., which claimed control over it, and the Malian government until an agreement brokered by regional powers in June restored Malian control.
Scott Sayare contributed reporting from Paris.