France says 'terrorists' behind murder of journalists in Mali

France says 'terrorists' behind murder of journalists in Mali

PARIS - Paris on Sunday blamed terrorist groups for the murder in "cold blood" of two radio journalists in northern Mali, and said French troops would boost security in the restive zone.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Radio France Internationale (RFI) journalist Ghislaine Dupont and sound technician Claude Verlon were shot dead after being abducted by armed men on Saturday.

"They were killed in cold blood, one took two bullets and the other three," he said after crisis talks led by President Francois Hollande on the murders in the northeastern town of Kidal.

"The killers are those we are fighting, the terrorist groups who are opposed to democracy and elections," he said.

He said security in "the entire zone and neighbouring areas, in particular with concern to French citizens, will be intensified."

A government source said this meant making the presence of French troops based in northern Mali "more visible." Justice Minister Christiane Taubira and the head of France's external intelligence services agency Bernard Bajolet also attended the hour-long talks with Hollande.

Dupont, 57, and Verlon, 55, had travelled Saturday to Kidal to interview a spokesman for the Tuareg separatist group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and were abducted outside his home, according to their employer.

They were both veteran journalists experienced in Africa reporting. Dupont had spent 27 years covering the continent since joining RFI in 1986.

RFI quoted MNLA spokesman Ambery Ag Rhissa as saying he heard a commotion outside and saw the pair being bundled into a four wheel-drive vehicle after the interview.

Men in turbans and speaking the Tuareg language of Tamashek "ordered Mr Ag Rhissa to get back inside and forced the journalists' driver to lie down", RFI said, adding that Rhissa had heard Verlon and Dupont resist and protest.

"This was the last time that the journalists were seen alive," said Marie-Christine Saragosse, CEO of France Media Monde, which owns RFI.

She said she was leaving for Mali to bring back the bodies.

The corpses were found less than two hours later by a French military patrol about 12 kilometres (seven miles) east of Kidal, Fabius said, adding their bodies were lying near the car.

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