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Hollande holds crisis talks on French reporters' murder

AFP

French President François Hollande has held an emergency meeting on the shocking abduction and murder of RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in northern Mali on Saturday.

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President François Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysée Palace on Sunday to discuss the shocking abduction and killing of two French radio journalists by armed men in northern Mali.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira and senior officials from France’s Defence Ministry joined Hollande for talks aimed at shedding light on the double murder.

Veteran journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were reporting for FRANCE 24’s sister radio station, Radio France Internationale (RFI), in the northern Malian town of Kidal on Saturday when they were abducted by unknown assailants.

They were seized outside the home of a spokesman for the Tuareg separatist group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), whom they had come to interview.

The spokesman, Ambery Ag Rhissa, told FRANCE 24 and RFI he saw the journalists being bundled into a four wheel-drive vehicle by men in turbans, speaking the Tuareg language of Tamashek.

"This was the last time that the journalists were seen alive," said Marie-Christine Saragosse, CEO of France Media Monde, the parent company of RFI and FRANCE 24.

French prosecutors have opened a formal investigation into the journalists’ abduction and murder.

Hollande, who earlier expressed "his indignation at this despicable act", was expected to discuss the implications of Saturday’s events for French forces in Mali.

'We just lost two amazing colleagues'

The French leader sent troops to the African country in January to oust Islamist rebels from the north.

Some 3,000 French troops are still deployed across the country, two thirds of which were supposed to pull out by February 2014.

That timetable may be changed in the wake of Saturday’s double murder, says FRANCE 24’s Julien Sauvaget, reporting from the Elysée Palace.

"The situation in northern Mali is still precarious, with less than half of the 12,500-strong UN peacekeeping force currently deployed – that is, not nearly enough to maintain security across the Malian territory,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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