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Suspect named in murders of RFI journalists

AFP

Baye Ag Bakabo, a drug trafficker and member of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was named by a Paris prosecutor on Wednesday as the chief suspect in the recent murders of Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.

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A little more than a week after Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were murdered while on assignment in Mali, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins named Baye Ag Bakabo, a drug trafficker and member of al Qaeda In the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), on Wednesday as the prime suspect in their deaths.

Dupont and Verlon were reporting in the northern Malian town of Kidal when they were seized by gunmen outside the home of Ambery Ag Rissa, a representative of the Tuareg-led separatist group MNLA, whom they had just interviewed. Shortly after they were captured, the pair were shot and killed.

Molins said Bakabo was the owner of a pick-up truck abandoned in the desert not far from where Dupont and Verlon’s bodies were found.

“A document bearing his name was found in the car... and he was also seen driving it,” Molins told reporters. “He is known as a drug trafficker and member of AQIM.”

Molins said Abdelkrim al-Targui, commander of an al Qaeda brigade in the region, had ordered the kidnapping. His forces claimed responsibility for the murders on November 6 as a reprisal for “crimes perpetrated by France and its Malian, UN and African allies”.

In January, an offensive by French and Malian forces pushed back al Qaeda-linked rebels who had invaded parts of central Mali and were preparing to assault its capital, Bamako. The operation achieved its main objectives, though rebels have filtered back into weakly patrolled towns such as Kidal.

French and Malian security forces investigating the murders are still searching for Bakabo. They have questioned several suspects but not made any arrests, Molins said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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