Two French Journalists Slain in North Mali

    The Wall Street Journal
    By The Wall Street Journal

    Two veteran French journalists were abducted and killed in Mali on Saturday while reporting in the region, according to the French government and Radio France Internationale, the state-funded radio station that employed them.

    Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were reporting in Kidal, a northern desert city that has remained a stronghold of separatists and insurgents despite a French-led military intervention aimed at restoring government control in the area.

    Ghislaine Dupont. Associated Press

    Claude Verlon Associated Press

     

     

     

     

     

     

    French President François Hollande confirmed the deaths of the two reporters and expressed "his indignation at this despicable act," according to a statement.

    After speaking with Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday evening, the French leader said, "The two presidents committed to relentlessly pursuing the fight against the terrorist groups that remain present in the north of Mali."

    Mr. Hollande will meet with his ministers on Sunday and consult with Malian and United Nations authorities to learn how they were killed, according to the statement.

    Their deaths highlight continuing unsafe conditions in Mali's north 10 months after French troops intervened. The situation in the Kidal area is highly volatile, with French forces sandwiched between desert dwellers, known as Tuaregs, some of whom don't recognize the authority of the central government, Islamist militants who appear to be returning to the region, and the Malian army, which is eager to regain control over northern territories.

    The two reporters were kidnapped around 1 p.m. local time, just as they were leaving the house of a Tuareg leader, according to a Kidal government official. They were taken in an SUV by four armed men, the official said. Their bodies were found on the outskirts of the town soon after, he said.

    "Of course there's still insecurity [in Kidal], because there are still armed groups in the city," Malian army Colonel Mamary Camara said by telephone. "And the Malian army isn't even allowed to leave its camps."

    Ms. Dupont, 51 years old, had covered African affairs since 1986, according to the radio station. Mr. Verlon, 58, was a seasoned reporter in difficult situations, RFI added.

    "The two professionals, specialists in Africa for many years, were reporting on the ground about the daily lives of Malians before legislative elections," RFI said. The station added that it had planned to broadcast from Bamako, the capital of Mali, on Nov. 7, but the broadcast is now canceled.

    The killings come amid an uptick in violence ahead of the elections and follow the release earlier in the week of four French men who had been kidnapped in neighboring Niger and held hostage for three years.

    Earlier this year, French forces drove out Islamist forces, who had seized a handful of cities across northern Mali and threatened to reach the southern capital of Bamako. The militants appeared to melt away, and presidential elections, which Mr. Boubacar Keita won, were held in the summer.

    Last month, however, a suicide bomber attacked U.N. peacekeepers at a checkpoint, killing two Chadian soldiers. That attack and others prompted France to launch Hydra, an operation that Defense Ministry officials described as a "large scale" mission of French and African troops that aimed to disrupt Islamist activity, capturing their weapons caches.

    After the legislative elections, the French government has said it would scale down its operations, cutting its forces from the 3,000 troops currently in the country to about 1,000.

    Two veteran French journalists were abducted and killed in Mali on Saturday while reporting in the region, according to the French government and Radio France Internationale, the state-funded radio station that employed them.

    Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were reporting in Kidal, a northern desert city that has remained a stronghold of separatists and insurgents despite a French-led military intervention aimed at restoring government control in the area.

    Ghislaine Dupont. Associated Press

    Claude Verlon Associated Press

    French President François Hollande confirmed the deaths of the two reporters and expressed "his indignation at this despicable act," according to a statement.

    After speaking with Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday evening, the French leader said, "The two presidents committed to relentlessly pursuing the fight against the terrorist groups that remain present in the north of Mali."

    Mr. Hollande will meet with his ministers on Sunday and consult with Malian and United Nations authorities to learn how they were killed, according to the statement.

    Their deaths highlight continuing unsafe conditions in Mali's north 10 months after French troops intervened. The situation in the Kidal area is highly volatile, with French forces sandwiched between desert dwellers, known as Tuaregs, some of whom don't recognize the authority of the central government, Islamist militants who appear to be returning to the region, and the Malian army, which is eager to regain control over northern territories.

    The two reporters were kidnapped around 1 p.m. local time, just as they were leaving the house of a Tuareg leader, according to a Kidal government official. They were taken in an SUV by four armed men, the official said. Their bodies were found on the outskirts of the town soon after, he said.

    "Of course there's still insecurity [in Kidal], because there are still armed groups in the city," Malian army Colonel Mamary Camara said by telephone. "And the Malian army isn't even allowed to leave its camps."

    Ms. Dupont, 51 years old, had covered African affairs since 1986, according to the radio station. Mr. Verlon, 58, was a seasoned reporter in difficult situations, RFI added.

    "The two professionals, specialists in Africa for many years, were reporting on the ground about the daily lives of Malians before legislative elections," RFI said. The station added that it had planned to broadcast from Bamako, the capital of Mali, on Nov. 7, but the broadcast is now canceled.

    The killings come amid an uptick in violence ahead of the elections and follow the release earlier in the week of four French men who had been kidnapped in neighboring Niger and held hostage for three years.

    Earlier this year, French forces drove out Islamist forces, who had seized a handful of cities across northern Mali and threatened to reach the southern capital of Bamako. The militants appeared to melt away, and presidential elections, which Mr. Boubacar Keita won, were held in the summer.

    Last month, however, a suicide bomber attacked U.N. peacekeepers at a checkpoint, killing two Chadian soldiers. That attack and others prompted France to launch Hydra, an operation that Defense Ministry officials described as a "large scale" mission of French and African troops that aimed to disrupt Islamist activity, capturing their weapons caches.

    After the legislative elections, the French government has said it would scale down its operations, cutting its forces from the 3,000 troops currently in the country to about 1,000.

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