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France identifies body of geologist abducted in Mali

Photo: AFP

The French president's office confirmed on Monday that a body found in northern Mali was that of French geologist Philippe Verdon (pictured) who was kidnapped in the central Malian town of Hombori in November 2011.

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France confirmed on Monday that a body found in northern Mali was that of Philippe Verdon, a French geologist who was kidnapped in November 2011.

In a statement released on Monday, French President François Hollande expressed his condolences to the victim’s loved ones.

"I express my total solidarity to his family and loved ones,” said Hollande. "I share the indignation of the French people and I reiterate that those responsible for his death must be identified and brought to justice."

Verdon’s remains will be transferred to France from Mali "as soon as possible," Hollande added.

The confirmation came a day after Hollande said there was a “very strong chance” that the body, found in Mali, could be that of Verdon during a televised interview on Bastille Day.

Verdon and another Frenchman were seized in the central Malian town of Hombori on November 24, 2011.

In March, al Qaeda's North African branch, AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) said it had beheaded Verdon in retaliation for France's military intervention in Mali.

AQIM is currently holding eight Europeans hostage - including five French nationals.

Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Féret were kidnapped in a mining town in neighbouring Niger by al Qaeda-linked militants on September 16, 2010.

Larribe’s wife, Françoise 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.

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