French army kills top Mali jihadist linked to murder of RFI journalists
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French soldiers have killed a Malian jihadist suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping and deaths of two French journalists in 2013, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.
Parly said French forces in the Sahel region had killed "four terrorists" in an operation in northern Mali on June 5, including Bayes Ag Bakabo, the prime suspect in the deaths of RFI radio reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon.
"His neutralisation means the end of a long wait," Parly said.
The two journalists were seized in the flashpoint northern Malian town of Kidal in late 2013 after interviewing a separatist Tuareg leader.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found few hours later, with the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group claiming the killings were revenge for France's decision to intervene against jihadist groups in the country earlier that year.
The killing took place months after the French "Serval" military operation (that lasted from 11 January 2013-1 August 2014) aimed at preventing jihadists from seizing Mali's capital Bamako.
A French investigation into the murders concluded that Bakabo, also a known drug trafficker, drove the pick-up truck used to kidnap the two journalists.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major drawdown of French troops in the Sahel region on Thursday (part of the "Barkhane" operation,) with the current 5,100-strong force set to be significantly reduced.
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