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French Journalists Kidnapped and Killed in Mali

The French Foreign Ministry has confirmed two French journalists who had been kidnapped were killed Saturday in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande called the killing "despicable" and expressed "indignation" Saturday.

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped the male and the female journalist shortly after they finished interviewing an official with the MNLA separatist group in the city of Kidal.

An MNLA spokesman told VOA he had learned the journalists were killed by their captors a short distance from the city. MNLA Revolutionary Council chairman Attayoub Ag Dataye said French troops in Mali found their bodies.

Separately, a VOA reporter in Kidal said French troops in helicopters had launched a search for the abductors.

The two journalists worked for Radio France Internationale .

Four French men were freed earlier this week after being held hostage for more than three years by al-Qaida-linked militants in neighboring Niger.

The French nationals were captured by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in September 2010, while they were working for the French nuclear firm Areva.

Kidal is the stronghold for the MNLA, which has been fighting for an independent Tuareg state in northern Mali.

The group took control of Kidal after French and African forces drove Islamist militants out of the region earlier this year.

Last month, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita cut short a trip to France after fighting erupted between Malian soldiers and MNLA rebels in Kidal.

Tensions have been high in the city since MNLA separatists pulled out of a peace process in September, saying the government was not living up to the terms of a cease-fire deal signed in June.

Mr. Keita's government has been trying to restore order after 21 months of turmoil that included an ethnic Tuareg uprising, a coup, and the Islamist militant takeover of northern Mali.

Earlier this year, France led an offensive in Mali to drive al-Qaida-linked militants from the country's north.

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