Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were kidnapped and killed near Kidal in Mali months after French forces were deployed during the Touareg uprising.
New evidence, brought to light in a French documentary Thursday, now suggests there is a link between negotiations over the liberation of four French hostages in Niger who were kidnapped in 2010 in neighbouring Niger and the murder of two reporters.
A text claiming responsibility for the murders of the journalists revealed in the film claimed that the assassination of the two was the price that President François Hollande had to pay for the release of the hostages.
The film suggested that the French government paid 30 million euros for the release of the hostages in Arlit, and the subsequent distribution of the money created tensions between rival factions in the Tourag rebellion, which led to the kidnapping of our two colleagues.
A statement issued over night by the directors of RFI demanded that the evidence produced in the documentary be taken into account in future investigations. The statement reads:
"In light of the Envoyé Spécial documentary that was aired last night on France 2 entitled 'Hostages of the State', the management of RFI (Radio France Internationale) welcomes the fact that another editorial team has taken up the investigation into the murders [of Dupont and Verlon] which complements the investigation that its own teams [RFI] have been conducting for more than three years."
The statement adds:
"France Médias Monde, has issued civil proceedings in the inquiry into the circumstances of the death of its two journalists, and is demanding that the authorities take the new elements uncovered in the documentary into account. It mandates its lawyers to ask the investigating judge to carry out an investigation into those new developments."
Dupont, 57, and Verlon, 58, were abducted and murdered on November 2, 2013, in northern Mali, where they were covering an election campaign for Radio France Internationale (RFI).
Their killing was claimed by al Qaeda’s regional branch AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which spoke of retaliation for France’s military intervention to drive Islamist insurgents out of northern Mali.
In a disturbing twist, the documentary also reveals that Dupont’s personal computer, which she had left in Paris, was hacked and her mail box emptied moments before her abduction.
A French investigation into the murders has made little progress since its launch in April 2014, to the dismay of the slain journalists’ families and their lawyers. They fear the killing of several suspects in French raids on al Qaeda cells will further hamper the inquiry.