Seven years after the assassination of two RFI journalists, gray areas remain

Seven years after the events, the relatives of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, the two RFI journalists killed on November 2, 2013 in northern Mali, still do not know the exact circumstances and the reasons for their kidnapping. At a press conference on Friday, October 30, they said they were ” still flabbergasted by the almost informational desert imposed (…) by successive political authorities and by the army ”.

The two bodies of the journalists were found riddled with bullets, in the desert, twelve kilometers from Kidal, near a broken down pick-up. According to the spokesman for the French staff at the time, Colonel Gilles Jaron, the French forces based at Kidal airport, alerted to this kidnapping, sent a patrol and two helicopters to search for them. They allegedly discovered the bodies of the two journalists without having seen or confronted the murderers.

From November 13, 2013, the hypothesis according to which the kidnappers, distraught by the breakdown of their car, would have killed them before fleeing was put forward by the French Attorney General in charge of the investigation, François Molins.

Did the special forces intervene?

But the investigation carried out by the courts comes up against several gray areas. The first is due to the role attributed to the French army. Did she arrive at the scene, as Colonel Jaron said, or did something else happen? According to information revealed by RFI in July 2019, a detachment of the Serval force was indeed deployed to the scene of the crime. But it was reportedly preceded by an operation attempted by special forces based in Kidal.

RFI relied on the testimony of a United Nations officer who indicated that he had started, with his battalion, the pursuit of the hostage-takers and that ” special forces took over »At kilometer 7. This version has never been corroborated by the French authorities.

For its part, the newspaper The world of Friday July 17, 2020 published the hearing of Lieutenant-Colonel S., head of the liaison detachment of the French army in Kidal in November 2013. The latter confirmed to the examining magistrate the engagement of special forces that day, while specifying that they would have followed a false trail.

The perpetrators of the kidnapping

Another gray area: the owner of the pick-up and his links with the French intelligence services. A former car thief, Baye ag Bakabo was an AQIM fighter before returning to Kidal, repented, in March 2013. Known to the intelligence services, he enjoyed a form of impunity for what he had committed in the ranks of AQIM, after being interviewed by the DGSE, according to a confidential note obtained by the judges responsible for the investigation.

Conversely, Sedan ag Hita, the former sergeant-head of the Malian national guard who joined AQIM in 2010 and whom the French judges suspect of having organized the kidnapping of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, has just made a statement. sudden return to the light. He was “The jihadist interlocutor of those who recently negotiated the release of hostages against more than 200 prisoners in Mali”relatives of the journalists said at the press conference.

A link with the release of Areva hostages?

Finally, a last hypothesis, recurring in this affair and clearly exposed in an investigation conducted for the magazine ” Correspondent »Of January 26, 2017, remains to be verified. It makes the link with the release four days earlier of the hostages of Arlit, in Niger: Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe and Marc Féret after three years of captivity. According to a survey by New York Times devoted to the hostage business, this would have taken place in exchange for a ransom of 30 million euros, which would not have been redistributed among all the katibas in the region.

For some, it is jihadists looted by this redistribution who would have carried out the kidnapping of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon. Information difficult for France to assume since it claims to have never paid a ransom to free the hostages working for Areva and held by Aqmi in Arlit.

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