Bamako, Nov 4 (IANS/AKI) Police have arrested five people in northern Mali for the murder of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, France’s Europe 1 radio reported Monday citing local security sources.
The five suspects were initially being held by French forces after being arrested in the city of Kidal and were due to be transferred to the city of Gao, the radio station said.
The suspects were arrested in two camps housing rebels from the MNLA ethnic Tuareg separatist group, Europe 1 said.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he could not immediately confirm the reported arrests but said that “operations to identify certain individuals” inside several camps had begun Sunday and were continuing.
The two journalists from France’s RFI public broadcaster were killed on a desert track 12 km east of Kidal. One received two bullets, the other three, in “cold and calculated” assassinations, according to Fabius.
He said that security would be stepped up in the region.
Dupont and Verlon were abducted Saturday after they had interviewed a local leader.
France’s President Francois Hollande called the killings “despicable”.
Kidal 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.
France led an operation to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali – its former colony – earlier this year, sending in thousands of troops.