Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mali: Two French Journalists Affiliated with RFI Kidnapped, Shot and Killed in Northern Mali

According to The Associated Press, two veteran French journalists employed by  Radio France Internationale (RFI) were kidnapped and shot to death on Saturday (November 2), as questions emerged about how the gunmen managed to carry out the attack near a town where both French troops and United Nations forces are based.

The slayings of Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, shocked France and journalists everywhere and underscored how insecure parts of northern Mali remain months after a French-led military intervention against al-Qaeda and other extremists.

The new details, shared by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius after a meeting of key ministers with French President François Hollande, all of whom failed to clarify who was behind the killings and why the pair was targeted.

He said the two were shot multiple times and their bodies found near the vehicle that abducted them. Earlier, four Malian officials, including the head of the armed forces in Kidal said the journalists' throats had been slit.

COMMENT: It is expected that the remains of the two murdered journalists would be flown to France on Monday (November 4).

The RFI journalists were kidnapped after interviewing a Tuareg rebel leader in Kidal. The northern town is under de facto rebel control despite the presence of French and UN troops.

Although both French and UN troops were dispatched on patrols as soon as it was reported that Dupont and Verlon were missing, patrols arrived too late.

Subsequently, troops found the abandoned kidnappers' vehicle east of Kidal and the bodies of the two journalists nearby. 

Fabius said the bodies were found some twelve kilometers (eight miles) outside Kidal and some distance from the vehicle. RFI chief Marie-Christine Saragosse said they were found 80 meters (262 feet) from the kidnappers' vehicle.

Both Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, known as the NMLA, and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists operate in the area.

The NMLA rebels launched their latest rebellion in 2012. Those rebels were later chased out by al-Qaeda's fighters in the region, but have returned to prominence in Kidal in recent months.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has kidnapped Westerners, but it tends not to kill them, but rather hold them for ransom as a means of financing their operations.

The journalists' killings came four days after France rejoiced at the liberation of four other kidnap victims, who had been abducted in neighboring Niger three years ago and were found alive in northwest Mali.

The slain journalists had been accompanied from Bamako to Kidal, some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) north, by UN peacekeepers who have been present since the end of the French intervention.

Yet, the French military spokesman confirmed reports that French forces in Mali had refused to take the journalists to Kidal for security and "operational reasons."