French imperialist troops patrolling in the West African state of Mali. Paris invaded the mineral-rich state on January 11, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
2 November 2013
Last updated at 15:11 ET
BBC World Service
Two French journalists killed in Mali town of Kidal
Two journalists for French radio station RFI have been killed after they were kidnapped in the northern town of Kidal in Mali.
Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were abducted after interviewing a local political leader. Their bodies were found outside the town soon after.
French President Francois Hollande called the killings "despicable".
The killings come days after France was celebrating the release of four hostages from neighbouring Niger.
Radio France Internationale said Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were on their second assignment in Kidal, having travelled to the town in July to cover the first round of the presidential election.
Ambeiry Ag Rhissa, a local official of the MNLA ethnic Tuareg separatist group, said the pair had just finished interviewing him when they were kidnapped outside his house.
"When they left, I heard a strange noise outside," he told Reuters news agency by telephone.
"I immediately went out to see and when I opened my door, a turbaned man pointed a gun at me and told me go back inside."
Sources said four men forced the journalists into a beige truck which was then driven off into the surrounding desert.
One report said the kidnappers' vehicle was being pursued by the security forces, possibly including the French army. A French attack helicopter was seen above Kidal a few hours after the abduction occurred.
The bodies of the two journalists were found some 12km (eight miles) outside Kidal, sources said.
Confirming their deaths, the French foreign ministry said it would "in conjunction with the Malian authorities, make every effort to find out as soon as possible about the circumstances of their death".
A statement from President Hollande's office said he "expresses his indignation over this despicable act", adding that he is meeting ministers on Sunday to discuss the incident.
Their deaths bring to 42 the number of journalists around the world killed so far in 2013.
The BBC's international development correspondent Mark Doyle, who was in Kidal just two days ago, describes it as a small place with a population of some 10,000.
He says it is at the epicentre of a political dispute between ethnic Tuareg nomads and the rest of the population of Mali, who are black Africans.
There are 200 French troops and 200 UN peacekeepers as well as a Malian army base in Kidal.
It is extremely surprising, our correspondent says, that such an attack could have happened in broad daylight under the noses of so many troops.
Earlier this week, four Frenchmen were released three years after being kidnapped by al-Qaeda-linked gunmen targeting French firms operating a uranium mine in neighbouring Niger.
The hostages had been held in the deserts of northern Mali.
Jubilation at their release was tempered by speculation that the French government had paid as much as a 20m euros (£17m; $26m) ransom.
Hostage-taking has become a big money-making business by extremist groups in the Sahara, say observers.
Much of it goes towards buying the means to carry out more kidnappings: Procuring four-wheel drive jeeps, fuel, weapons and GPS systems, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner reports.
France led an operation to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali - its former colony - earlier this year, sending in thousands of troops.
It handed over responsibility for security to a UN force in the summer.
But French troops are still in the country helping to prevent a resurgence of militant activity in the region.