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Dozens detained in Mali in RFI journalists' murder investigation

Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita pays homage to the coffins of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon before they are sent to France
Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita pays homage to the coffins of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon before they are sent to France AFP/Philippe Desmazes

At least 35 people have been detained in the inquiry into the murder of RFI's Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in Kidal, according to sources in Mali. French defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian refused to confirm the claim on Wednesday morning.

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"We have to respect the procedure," Le Drian told France Inter radio. "This is a crime, a murder."

Kidal, a stronghold of Tuareg separatists in the far north of Mali, is a "particularly sensitive zone", he said, "meaning that the identification of the murderers is not easy".

Dossier: War in Mali

Sources in Mali earlier confirmed reports that at least 35 people have been detained in the space of 48 hours after the discovery of documents and telephone numbers found in the vehicle the murderers abandoned after killing Dupont and Verlon.

But they are not the perpetrators, just friends and acquaintances.

Three of the four perpetrators are reported to have been identified as people who had been questioned by French troops in Kidal earlier this year.

One of them is believed to be lose to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) and they are believed to have provided vehicles for the group, including to Abdelkrim Targui, who recently released four French hostages and is believed to still be holding another, Serge Lazarevic.

An extra 150 French troops will be sent to join the 200 already in Kidal, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced on Tuesday.

Seven investigators, inclluding intelligence officials and police, have been sent to help the investigation.

  • Fabius was to be present at a homage to Dupont and Verlon at Paris's Quai Branly museum on Wednesday afternoon, broadcast live on RFI in French from 2.30pm Paris time;
  • French MPs observed a minute's silence in their honour on Tuesday afternoon, as did RFI's personnel;
  • The press club in the northern French city of Lille organised a "minute of noise" on Wednesday morning in homage to our colleaguess and in solidarity with the four French journalists held hostage in Syria.

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