Mali pays homage to shot French journos

2013-11-05 08:59


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bamako - Mali paid homage to two French journalists shot dead in its rebel-infested northern desert and vowed to hunt down their killers, as a plane left capital Bamako carrying their bodies back home.

The Air France flight carrying the coffins of Ghislaine Dupont, 57, and Claude Verlon, 55, took off from Bamako airport shortly before midnight on Monday and was expected to arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris early on Tuesday morning.

The two journalists working for Radio France Internationale (RFI) were kidnapped and killed by what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called "terrorist groups" in the flashpoint north-eastern town of Kidal on Saturday.

"We will do everything to find the culprits," Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita vowed as he met with members of the RFI management in the capital of the west African nation on Monday.

"Today even, we have opened a criminal investigation into the killings and tonight French investigators are expected here to work hand-in-hand with their Malian counterparts," he added.

The victims' bodies were flown to Bamako on Sunday night, where hundreds of Malian reporters and RFI colleagues marched through the streets in silent tribute.

"We organised this silent march to say 'never again' - the perpetrators of this crime must be punished," said Makan Kone, president of the capital's media association, the Bamako Press House.

Keita later attended a ceremony at Bamako airport with several government ministers in honour of the journalists, saying he was in contact with French leader Francois Hollande and the investigation was "progressing".

'A dozen suspects' detained

The president said he thought of Dupont, a correspondent with years of experience reporting on Africa, as his "own daughter".

A police source in Gao, the main city in northern Mali, said "a dozen suspects" had been detained but a source close to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denied there had been any arrests.

The killings have shaken France, which just days ago was celebrating the return of four hostages who had been held for three years after being abducted in Mali's neighbour Niger.

Fabius told RTL radio on Monday that "operations" were underway in Mali in a bid to "identify a certain number of people in camps".

The deaths have highlighted the ongoing security threat just three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections supposed to mark the completion of Mali's transition back to democracy following a military coup in March last year.

The United States on Monday condemned acts of violence against journalists and expressed concern over the security situation in the country.

"We've been concerned about the security situation in Mali for some time," said US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, adding that the deadly attack on the journalists "just underscores how dangerous it can be. And we'll keep working with our partners on this to make progress."

Mali is 'most fragile country'

There has been an upsurge in violence in the former French colony, where Paris sent troops early this year to drive out Islamists and Tuareg rebels who had seized the country's vast north after the coup.

A UN peacekeeping force is eventually expected to comprise about 12 600 troops and police but Malian soldiers have nevertheless voiced concerns over a planned drawdown of French troops.

Paris was due to reduce its deployment of 3 000 troops to 1 000 by the end of January but government spokesman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem signalled that the decision might be reversed in light of the journalists' deaths.

"We are probably going to have to further strengthen our presence to be able to counter terrorism," Vallaud-Belkacem said.

Meanwhile the European Union pledged $830m to Bamako as part of a five-billion-euro package of fresh aid for Sahel countries, describing Mali as the "most fragile country" in the region.

A French military patrol found Dupont and Verlon's bodies about 12km east of Kidal just hours after they were snatched on Saturday, lying by a pick-up truck in which they had been abducted.

They had travelled to Kidal to interview a spokesman for Tuareg separatist group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and were kidnapped outside his home, according to their employer.

The MNLA described the murders as "heinous" and complained it had been denied the opportunity to help find the killers, despite being the main rebel group in the area.

The MNLA announced late Monday that it was merging with two other rebel groups, the Tuareg High Council for the Unity of Azawad and the Arab Movement of Azawad, to form a united front in peace talks with the authorities in Bamako.

Read more on:    un  |  france  |  mali  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.