Tracks led to arrests in Mali journalist deaths

Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press
Tracks led to arrests in Mali journalist deaths

This photo taken and provided Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, by the ECPAD or French army's image division, shows french soldiers carrying the casket of one of the two journalists executed in northern Mali, during a military ceremony of the removal of the bodies at Bamako military airport in Mali. The slayings of Ghislaine Dupont, 51, and Claude Verlon, 58, shocked France and underscored how insecure parts of northern Mali remain months after a French-led military intervention against al-Qaida and other extremists. (AP Photo/Gilles Gesquiere, ECPAD)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- French forces who found the bodies of two radio journalists kidnapped and shot to death in northern Mali followed the abductor's tracks in the sand and arrested about a half-dozen suspects on Monday, a Malian intelligence official said.

The director of Radio France Internationale confirmed multiple arrests.

The kidnappers' car had a broken steering wheel, suggesting the vehicle broke down, according to the Malian official, who refused to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

"The bottom of the steering wheel was broken, like they had crashed or run over a rock. The bodies were found several meters (yards) from the car, executed," he said.

Witnesses reported that French journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were grabbed by four men on Saturday after interviewing a Tuareg rebel leader in the northern city of Kidal. Dupont was shot in the chest and Verlon was shot in the head, both of them "coldly assassinated," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday.

The intelligence official said: "We believe that of the people they now have in custody, they have at least one of the four killers."

Cecile Megie, the director of RFI, confirmed arrests on Monday, but offered no details in an interview with the iTele network.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius could not confirm the arrests and France's Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant contributed from Paris.