Two journalists for French radio station RFI have been killed after they were kidnapped in the northern town of Kidal in Mali. Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were abducted after interviewing a local political leader. Their bodies were found outside the town soon after.
RFI said Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were on their second assignment in Kidal, having travelled to the town in July to cover the first round of the presidential election.
Ambeiry Ag Rhissa, a local official of the MNLA ethnic Tuareg separatist group, said the pair had just finished interviewing him when they were kidnapped outside his house.
"When they left, I heard a strange noise outside. I immediately went out to see and when I opened my door, a turbaned man pointed a gun at me and told me go back inside."Sources said four armed men forced the journalists into a beige truck which was then driven off into the surrounding desert. The driver of the journalistes heard the two reporters protest and resist. It was the last time they were seen alive.
Security forces were quickly alerted, they pursued the kidnappers' vehicle and a French attack helicopter tried to trace them, but it was too late. A few minutes after the pursuit, the bodies of the two journalists were later found, riddled with bullets, on a desert track some 12km (eight miles) to the east of Kidal.
I cannot but wonder why they didn't send local journalists to do this interview knowing that extremist Islamic groups haven't forgiven France for the French military intervention in January, which pushed a number of of them out of the main towns of the north. The central government had lost control of the northern half of the country to MNLA and radical Islamist rebel groups last year, prompting an intervention by French and African forces (including Nigerian military force) in February.
Some sources said the two reporters had requested a military escort officers but were refused, given the risks in this area, which is among the most dangerous place in Mali. Despite the advice of the military, the two journalists went there at their own risk.
RFI described 51-year-old Ghislaine Dupont as passionate about her job and the African continent that she covered ever since joining RFI in 1986. Claude Verlon, 58-years-old, was driven by his passion for a challenge and was known for his love of adventure. He began working at RFI in 1982.
Their deaths bring to 42 the number of journalists around the world killed so far in 2013.
May their souls rest in peace !!!