Bodies of French journalists killed in Mali arrive in Paris

The bodies of two French journalists shot dead in the rebel-infested northern desert of Mali arrived home in Paris today, as Bamako vowed to hunt down their killers.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 05, 2013, 14:42 PM IST

Paris: The bodies of two French journalists shot dead in the rebel-infested northern desert of Mali arrived home in Paris today, as Bamako vowed to hunt down their killers.

The Air France flight carrying the coffins of of Ghislaine Dupont, 57, and Claude Verlon, 55, arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport in the French capital from Bamako.

The two journalists working for Radio France Internationale (RFI) were kidnapped and killed by what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called "terrorist groups" in the flashpoint northeastern town of Kidal on Saturday.

"We will do everything to find the culprits," Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita vowed as he met with members of the RFI management in the capital of the west African nation yesterday.

"Today even, we have opened a criminal investigation into the killings and tonight French investigators are expected here to work hand-in-hand with their Malian counterparts," he added.

The victims` bodies were flown to Bamako on Sunday night, where hundreds of Malian reporters and RFI colleagues marched through the streets in silent tribute.

"We organised this silent march to say `never again`, the perpetrators of this crime must be punished," said Makan Kone, president of the capital`s media association, the Bamako Press House.

Keita later attended a ceremony at Bamako airport with several government ministers in honour of the journalists, saying he was in contact with French leader Francois Hollande and the investigation was "progressing".

The president said he thought of Dupont, a correspondent with years of experience reporting on Africa, as his "own daughter".

A police source in Gao, the main city in northern Mali, said "a dozen suspects" had been detained but a source close to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denied there had been any arrests.

The killings have shaken France, which just days ago was celebrating the return of four hostages who had been held for three years after being abducted in Mali`s neighbour Niger.

Fabius told RTL radio yesterday that "operations" were underway in Mali in a bid to "identify a certain number of people in camps".

The deaths have highlighted the ongoing security threat just three weeks ahead of parliamentary elections supposed to mark the completion of Mali`s transition back to democracy following a military coup in March last year.

The United States yesterday condemned acts of violence against journalists and expressed concern over the security situation in the country.