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article imageFrench journalists kidnapped at gunpoint and killed in Mali

By Robert Myles     Nov 3, 2013 in World
Kidal - Two French journalists,were murdered in Mali, North Africa, Saturday, just hours after being kidnapped by insurgents. The two journalists have been identified as 57-year-old Ghislaine Dupont and sound technician, Claude Verlon, aged 55.
The pair, both with French radio station Radio France International (RFI), were on their second visit to the remote north-eastern Malian town of Kidal, having previously covered the Malian presidential election at the same location in July 2013. On Saturday’s visit, they had just interviewed Ambeiry Ag Rhissa, a local official of the ethnic Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, when they were taken captive shortly after leaving Ambeiry Ag Rhissa’s house at about 1 p.m. GMT. Less than two hours later, both were found dead about 15 kilometers (about 10 miles) outside Kidal.
The deaths of Dupont and Verlon have shocked France and come just four days after the country was celebrating the freeing of four hostages who’d been held in neighboring Niger for over three years.
According to a brief announcement on the French Foreign Ministry website, Dupont and Verlon were kidnapped by an armed gang and later found dead. The same announcement said the French state, in conjunction with authorities in Mali, would make every effort to shed light on the circumstances of the deaths of the two journalists as quickly as possible.
French President François Hollande has expressed his “outrage at this heinous act." The slaying of the French journalists also met swift condemnation from the UN Security Council who issued a statement, Saturday, in which Security Council members “expressed their condolences to the family of the victims" as well as to the French government, reports France 24.
The UN statement continued, “In accordance with international humanitarian law, journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict are generally considered as civilians and shall be respected and protected as such."
The two murdered French journalists were in Kidal, an area of Mali still controlled in part by insurgents, in connection with a special report scheduled for broadcast by radio station RFI Thursday next.
Both Dupont and Verlon will have been aware of the risks attached to their mission. According to 20 Minutes, reporting a French government source, they had asked for the assistance of Serval, the French forces in Mali operating under a UN Resolution, to ensure safe passage to Kidal. Such assistance was refused but the journalists took advantage of transport given by Minusma, the UN Mission in Mali, to reach their rendez-vous with Ambeiry Ag Rhissa.
Speaking to France 24, Ambeiry Ag Rhissa said he’d completed his interview with the journalists who’d just left his house when, “I heard an unusual noise in the street."
Ag Rhissa went out to investigate. He said, “Their car was parked in front of my house, about 10 meters from the door. I went out to see what was happening. Once I got to the door, I saw a car, a pick-up, parked next to theirs. There was a man on the ground who had a weapon. He immediately pointed it at me and said: "Go back inside, go back in!"”
Confronted with the armed man, Ag Rhissa said he returned indoors. He continued, “Shortly afterwards they took off with the two journalists. They left in a great hurry."
There are reports of two French military helicopters and a patrol having been immediately dispatched to pursue the abductors but by the time security forces reached the kidnapped journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon had already been murdered.
The abduction and slaying of the French journalists demonstrates just how febrile is the peace in parts of northern Mali, notwithstanding the UN-backed intervention of French forces to quell insurgents being largely regarded as a success.
The abduction of the journalists took place in an area of Mali where French forces have pushed many extremist Islamist groups out of the towns. Yet, as BBC reports, despite the French and Malian security presence, armed gunmen were able to mount an operation in broad daylight, close to a military base housing several hundred French soldiers and UN peacekeepers and abduct two foreign journalists right outside Ambeiry Ag Rhissa’s house, one of the most sensitive addresses in Kidal.
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