Two French radio journalists were killed by gunmen in northern Mali shortly after being abducted in the town of Kidal, French and Malian officials said.
Yesterday, the French foreign ministry said in a statement that Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont, both journalists at RFI radio, were found dead.
Kidal is the birthplace of a Tuareg uprising last year that plunged Mali into chaos, leading to a coup in the capital Bamako and the occupation of the northern half of the country by militants linked to al-Qaeda.
A French-led military intervention drove out the militants but there are still pockets of insurgents and the incident dramatically highlighted the continuing security risks.
France has maintained a military presence in the area, alongside troops from Mali and the UN peacekeeping mission.
A local prefect, sources from the Tuareg separatist group MNLA and Malian security services said the two reporters had been killed outside the town after their abduction.
"A few minutes after a pursuit began for the abductors of the two French, we were informed that their bodies were found riddled with bullets outside the town," said Paul-Marie Sidibe, prefect of the town of Tinzawaten, who is based in Kidal.
A senior MNLA military official said the bodies had been recovered outside Kidal and a Malian security source said the journalists were killed about 12km from the town.
The French foreign ministry said it would work with local authorities to establish the circumstances of the deaths. France's defence ministry said that the French army had warned the reporters not to travel to Kidal on October 29 and refused to take them to the town.
"They were advised to not travel there due to insecurity that continues to reign in the area and the rivalry between different groups operating in the area," the ministry said.
"Despite this advice, the two journalists took MINSUMA transportation to get to Kidal," it said.
The journalists were seized after they interviewed Kidal resident Ambeiry Ag Rhissa, a local official with the MNLA Tuareg separatist group.
"When they left, I heard a strange noise outside. I immediately went out to see and when I opened my door, a turbaned man pointed a gun at me and told me go back inside," Rhissa said.
"I could not see how many men were there," he said. RFI confirmed in a news bulletin that Dupont and Verlon were kidnapped in front of Rhissa's house after the interview.