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Journalists kidnapped and killed

Two French journalists working for the radio station RFI have been killed in northern Mali hours after being kidnapped by gunmen, the French foreign ministry said.

The bodies of Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were found today, the ministry said.

RFI said earlier on its web site that the pair had been kidnapped by gunmen in Kidal.

Earlier, radio station RFI confirmed the kidnappings on its website, saying that the two were taken 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, Colonel 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.

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 US dollars in ransom payments.

AP

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