Body of French hostage 'found in northern Mali'
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The body of French hostage Philippe Verdon (pictured) appears to have been found in northern Mali, the French foreign ministry said on Sunday.
A body found in northern Mali is likely to be that of French geologist Philippe Verdon, who was taken hostage in November 2011, France's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
President François Hollande had said in his Bastille Day speech on Sunday that it was possible Verdon had died several weeks ago but his death was not officially confirmed.
"There is a very strong chance that the body found recently in northern Mali is unfortunately that of our compatriot Philippe Verdon," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that further checks were being made.
Citing an unnamed source, FRANCE 24’s sister station Radio France Internationale said on Sunday that DNA checks had shown that the body found in the north of Mali was that of Verdon and that his body would be repatriated to France within days.
Al Qaeda's arm in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in March said it had beheaded Verdon in response to France's military intervention in Mali.
AQIM is currently holding hostage eight Europeans, including five French nationals.
Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret – mostly working for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom – were kidnapped in Niger by al Qaeda-linked militants on September 16, 2010.
Francoise Larribe, the wife of Daniel Larribe, was also captured but was released in 2011.
The fifth French hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped along with Verdon.
AQIM said in late June that the eight Europeans are alive and that it would soon release a new video of the five Frenchmen.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)