Two French radio journalists killed in northern Mali
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Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, two journalists reporting from the northern Malian town of Kidal for Radio France Internationale, were murdered after gunmen abducted them on Saturday.
Two French journalists were killed on Saturday afternoon in the northern Malian town of Kidal.
Reporter Ghislaine Dupont and journalist and sound engineer Claude Verlon of FRANCE 24’s sister station Radio France Internationale (RFI) were abducted by unknown gunmen after they interviewed a leader of the Tuareg separatist movement MNLA.
They were later found dead around 15km outside of the town.
Local governor Adama Kamissoko told the Reuters news agency the journalists were abducted “by four men driving a Toyota in Kidal town”.
RFI confirmed that the two journalists were kidnapped around 1pm GMT. The French foreign ministry announced their deaths later in the evening.
French President François Hollande issued a statement expressing his “indignation at such a despicable act”. He called several ministers to a meeting on Sunday morning to “work with the Malian authorities and UN forces to establish the truth behind the murders”.
RFI reported that Tuareg leader Ambery Ag Rissa heard a noise outside his Kidal home after being interviewed by Dupont and Verlon on Saturday afternoon. He then saw armed men take the two journalists into a jeep and was forced to go back into his house after threats from the kidnappers.
The journalists’ driver told RFI he was forced to lie on the ground and heard his passengers protest and resist the gunmen.
Although witnesses reported seeing a French military helicopter fly above the area after the kidnapping, the French presidency told RFI that “the authorisation to use force was neither requested nor granted”.
A Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation into the murders.
Tears and anger in Paris studios
In a voice heavy with emotion, the presenter of RFI’s evening news bulletin announced the deaths of his colleagues as journalists and technicians congregated outside the studio, many in tears.
RFI, FRANCE 24 and Monte-Carlo Doualiya (MCD) chief executive Marie-Christine Saragosse came on air to say: “As usual, they were doing a special report two weeks before the legislative elections. They wanted to give a voice to all of the Malian people, in a spirit of reconciliation.”
She added: “Our anger will make us even more determined not to let these barbarians gag us.”
RFI has cancelled a special day of live reporting from Mali, initially scheduled for next Thursday, for which Dupont and Verlon were gathering material.
“We are cancelling this report from Bamako because the RFI-FRANCE 24-MCD needs to regroup, but we will go back to Kidal,” said RFI’s managing director Cécile Mégie.
The murders took place on the second day of a national forum on the future of Mali’s troubled northern region in the capital Bamako.
The central government had lost control of the northern half of the country to MNLA and radical Islamist rebel groups last year, prompting a French-led military intervention in February.
France maintains a heavy military presence in northern Mali and has been taking part in a fresh offensive against extremists in the region in the past few weeks.
Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon had already travelled to Kidal last August to report on Mali's presidential election.