French reporter kidnapped by jihadi rebels in northern Mali

AP International

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Jihadi rebels kidnapped French journalist Olivier Dubois on April 8 while he was working in Mali’s northern city of Gao, the chief of Reporters Without Borders has announced.

A video released Wednesday shows Dubois saying he was kidnapped by the al-Qaida-linked group JNIM. In the video he calls on his family, friends and authorities to work for his release. The video could not be independently verified.

Reporters Without Borders chief Christophe Deloire confirmed the kidnapping to The Associated Press, and called for the reporter’s release.

“We ask the Malian and French authorities to do everything possible to obtain his release and send all our support to his family and loved ones,” he posted on Twitter.

Dubois was reporting in Gao in northern Mali and did not return to his hotel after lunch on April 8, Deloire said. Dubois usually works for LePoint Afrique.

The French Foreign Ministry confirmed his disappearance, saying they are in touch with his family and Malian authorities.

French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said authorities are currently making usual checks on the video and declined to provide more details.

“We are working closely with the Malian authorities,” he said. “We are reiterating our demand not to go to that area (in Mali) that is especially risky.”

Arnaud Froger, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Africa desk, told the AP “this video seems to indicate and confirm our worst fears.”

“We will see during the day if this information concerning his kidnapping is acknowledged by the different authorities, but obviously everything points in the direction that he is the hands of an armed group in the northeast of Mali right now.”

Reporters Without Borders is “calling on the authorities to do everything they can, to put every means at their disposal to try to secure his release and to make sure he can be freed without any further delay,” Froger said.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led campaign that ousted the jihadists from the cities they controlled in northern Mali in 2013.

But insurgents remain active and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, attacking targets and stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region.

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AP writers Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, and Angela Charlton, Sylvie Corbet and Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris contributed.

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