French say 2 journalists killed in north Mali

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FILE - In this July 27, 2013 file photo, a French soldier patrols at dusk in a central market in Kidal, Mali. Mali's military chief in Kidal said Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, that two journalists working for French radio station RFI have been kidnapped. RFI confirmed the kidnappings on its website, saying that journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were taken at 1 p.m. Saturday by armed men in Kidal and have not been heard from since. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

PARIS (AP) — Two French radio journalists were kidnapped by gunmen in northern Mali on Saturday and killed hours later, the French Foreign Ministry said.

The foreign ministry said the bodies of Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont had been found. Earlier, radio station RFI confirmed the kidnappings on its website, saying that the two were taken at 1 p.m. by armed men in Kidal and had not been heard from since.

The ministry said in a statement that French intelligence services along with Malian authorities "are putting everything in place so that light can be shed as quickly as possible on the circumstances of their deaths."

The deaths come four days after France rejoiced at the release of four French citizens held for three years by al-Qaida's affiliate in North Africa.

A Malian military head, Col. Mamari Camara, said he had received a phone call in the afternoon from his men in the field confirming the two reporters had been taken.

The two were grabbed by several armed men in a 4x4 after they finished an interview with a Tuareg rebel leader, a Kidal city official said on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press.

Northern Mali last year was seized by a faction of al-Qaida which has used kidnappings of foreigners, especially French citizens, to bankroll its operations.

The global intelligence company Stratfor estimates that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has carried out at least 18 kidnappings since 2003, raising an estimated $89 million in ransom payments.