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France

France says it's determined to fight terrorism after death of two RFI journalists in Mali

media Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont in Kidal, Mali, in July 2013 RFI

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has accused terrorist groups of abducting and murdering Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon Saturday afternoon in Mali's northern separatists stronghold.

"A crime against journalists is a double crime: it’s a crime against people who were coldly assassinated, in odious conditions," said Foreign Minister Fabius. "But it is also a crime against freedom of information, and to be informed. The killers are those we are fighting against: the terrorist groups who reject democracy and reject elections."

A French army spokesman also said late Saturday that Dupont and Verlon’s bodies were found with multiple gun wounds near an abandoned 4x4 twelve kilometres east of northwestern desert town Kidal.

Marie-Christine Saragosse, the president of France Médias Monde, said both journalists were professionals, "not hotheads taking risks."

"One could wonder if we not have been in Kidal. But a lot of journalists were going there. And our journalists had gone in July, when it seemed even less safe," she said. "On this trip, the morning they were killed, they told us it felt safer. And they were in the safest spot in town, in the City Hall." 

The slain journalists undergird the still volatile situation in Mali's northern region ten months after a French-led military intervention aimed at pushing out Taureg rebels from government controlled territories.

Speaking on RFI Sunday morning, Fabius said the two journalists were killed by the same terrorists the military was trying to combat.

"A situation like this one is very emotional, and one feels outrage. France is determined to fight against terrorism," said Fabius.

French Helicopters arrived at the scene nearly an hour after a French ground patrol officer found the two journalists' bodies next to the locked car.

An army official told the Reuter’s news agency that France’s army did not come into contact or see the gunmen who killed the two journalists.

Our forces had no visual or physical contact with the kidnappers’ moving vehicle”, Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Gilles Jarron said.

He also added that French helicopters part of the rescue operation took off from Tessalit, 250km north of Kidal, and arrived on the scene just under an hour after the patrol found the bodies.

He added that he did not know who had carried out the abduction and murders.

President François Hollande, who earlier expressed his "indignation at the heinous act", held an emergency meeting at the Elysée Palace on Sunday to discuss the abduction and killing of the two journalists.“

French prosecutors have also opened a formal investigation into what happened on Saturday.

Several top RFI managers will travel to Mali to bring back the bodies of Dupont and Verlon.

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