On November 2, 2013, Claude Verlon, a veteran sound engineer, was abducted, along with RFI senior reporter Ghislaine Dupont, and killed shortly afterward in the remote, northeastern Saharan town of Kidal, according to news reports.
Gunmen seized the journalists as they left the home of Ambery Ag Rissa, a leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a group of ethnic Tuareg separatists based in Kidal, according to news reports. Verlon and Dupont had conducted an interview with the official at around 1 p.m. local time, and were preparing to board their vehicle when they was kidnapped at gunpoint, the reports said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a press conference on November 2 that the bullet-ridden bodies of the journalists were found next to their vehicle outside the town.
Verlon, 55, was on his second assignment in Kidal since reporting on the first round of Mali’s presidential election in July, according to news reports. He joined RFI in 1982 and had traveled with news crews in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and around Africa, according to RFI. He was known for his technical prowess.
The group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the killings, according to news reports. On November 5, 2013, RFI reported that French and Malian security forces were hunting a four-member team responsible for the kidnapping, and had detained 35 people for questioning.
According to a July 2019 RFI report that referenced French investigators and Fawaz Ould Ahmed Ould Aheid, a former chief of operations for the Al Mourabitoune militant group nicknamed Ibrahim No. 10, the kidnappers killed Verlon and Dupont and left their bodies “because their vehicle broke down.”
The report also referenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a militant with the Ansar Dine armed group nicknamed Abou Tourab who spoke to Abdelkrim al-Targui, one of the individuals who claimed responsibility for the killings. The report said Abdelkrim told Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi that, “the abduction failed, the kidnappers killed the hostages without his orders.”
Citing a UN document, RFI reported in the same article that the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali received a call at 1:15 p.m. on the day of the kidnapping from someone identified as Commander Charles who worked with the Sahel-based French special forces group known as the Sabre Forces. Commander Charles had been alerted about the kidnapping by Ambery Ag Rissa “immediately” after the two journalists were taken, and Sabre Forces took over tracking the kidnappers, according to the RFI report.
The RFI report also highlighted inconsistencies between the timelines of Verlon and Dupont’s kidnapping and deaths presented by the French army and various other sources.