Al-Qaida's North African affiliate said Wednesday it is responsible for the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists in Mali over the weekend.
A website used by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said that Radio France Internationale's senior correspondent Ghislaine Dupont and a production technician for the network, Claude Verlon, were killed in response to France's "new crusade."
Sahara Media, a website used by the jihadists, said the killings were an answer to the "'daily crimes' committed by French and Malian forces in northern Mali," where France launched a military operation in January to flush out the Islamic extremists, The Associated Press says.
"The organization considers that this is the least of the price which (French) President Francois Hollande and his people will pay for their new crusade," the statement reads.
However, AP reports:
"A Mali intelligence official involved in the case said investigators believe the kidnapping was the work of a lower-level jihadist trying to return to the good graces of the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb after being accused of stealing money. The militant is believed to have been reporting to Abdelkarim al-Targui, a prominent Malian in the al-Qaida branch, the official said."
France said the killings were a "calculated assassination."
The BBC, which says the bodies of the two were already being repatriated to France, says "they were kidnapped and shot dead on Saturday after interviewing a local leader in the northern town of Kidal."