French journalists’ murder 'linked to al Qaeda hostage ransom'
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The murder in 2013 of RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon may be related to botched negotiations for the release of French hostages held by al Qaeda's North African branch, according to a report by France 2.
Dupont, 57, and Verlon, 58, were abducted and murdered on November 2, 2013, in northern Mali, where they were covering an election campaign for Radio France Internationale (RFI), FRANCE 24's sister radio station.
Their killing was claimed by al Qaeda’s regional branch AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which spoke of retaliation for France’s military intervention to drive Islamist insurgents out of northern Mali.
According to an investigative report by France 2, to be aired on Thursday evening, the murder of the two French journalists may be linked to the release, days before, of four French hostages held by AQIM.
The report, which follows a year-long investigation by France 2 journalists, says French negotiators paid tens of millions of euros to the terrorist organisation in exchange for the hostages, who were kidnapped in 2010 in neighbouring Niger.
But it claims competition between rival agencies involved in the negotiations delayed the deal, suggesting the RFI journalists may have been murdered in retaliation for a hitch in the ransom’s payment.
In a disturbing twist, the report reveals that Dupont’s personal computer, which she had left in Paris, was hacked and her mail box emptied moments before her abduction.
A French investigation into the murders has made little progress since its launch in April 2014, to the dismay of the slain journalists’ families and their lawyers. They fear the killing of several suspects in French raids on al Qaeda cells will further hamper the inquiry.