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Jihadi rebels kidnap reporter in Mali

Jihadi rebels kidnap reporter in Mali
© Twitter/Olivier Dubois

A French journalist is believed to have been kidnapped by jihadi rebels in Mali and has reportedly appeared in a video urging others to help secure his release.

Reporters Without Borders chief Christophe Deloire announced the kidnapping of journalist Olivier Dubois in a Twitter thread on Wednesday, as well as in comments to The Associated Press

The video released Wednesday reportedly shows Dubois saying he was kidnapped by al Qaeda-affiliated group JNIM and asking for family, friends and government officials to secure his release.

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The AP reported that it was not able to independently verify the video, though the French Foreign Ministry later confirmed the journalist’s disappearance to the news agency. 

According to Deloire, Dubois — who usually works for LePoint Afrique and the French daily newspaper Libération — was reporting in the eastern Malian city of Gao when he did not return to his hotel on April 8.

Deloire said that Reporters Without Borders was initially made aware of the journalist’s disappearance two days later but had decided not to make it public in order to assist in his rapid return. 

The international nonprofit head added that the group would do everything possible to secure Dubois’s release. 

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French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told the AP on Wednesday that authorities were analyzing the video reportedly showing Dubois, though he declined to provide additional details on the investigation. 

“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.”

Meanwhile, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Africa desk, Arnaud Froger, said the 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,” Froger said.

While a French-led campaign ousted jihadists from the northern Malian cities they controlled in 2013, the AP noted that several groups affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State have moved into the central part of the landlocked African country since 2015.

The reports on the kidnapping come amid ongoing concerns over violence and attacks in West Africa’s Sahel region.

Last week, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called on the U.S. to move the headquarters of U.S. Africa Command from Germany to the African continent to provide more direct support amid ongoing attacks in the Sahel from Islamist extremist groups. A Pentagon spokesman said he would not "relitigate" the decision to have the headquarters in Europe.