Bamako, Mali, May 5 – A French journalist, in a video circulating on social media Wednesday, said he had been kidnapped in Mali in early April by a jihadist group with links to Al-Qaeda.
The brief video could not be independently verified, although an official at the French foreign ministry confirmed that Olivier Dubois, who worked for several media, including the international TV channel France 24 and Liberation daily, was missing.
In the video, which lasts about 20 seconds, Dubois said he was abducted on April 8 in the central region of Gao by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.
He is seen seated on the ground, on a green sheet that could be a tent, dressed in a light pink traditional gown, with his beard trimmed.
The foreign ministry official said, “We are in contact with his family and the Malian authorities. We are carrying out the usual technical verifications” of the video.
Liberation, for which Dubois had been writing regularly since April last year, declined to make any immediate comment.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency which first broke out in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, while the economic impact on one of the world’s poorest countries has been devastating.
Abductions have been frequent, both of Malians and foreigners.
The last French hostage was Sophie Petronin, a 75-year-old aid worker, who was freed in October last year along with Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, who has since died, and Italians Nicola Chiacchio and Pier Luigi Maccalli.
There has been consistent speculation that a ransom was paid for the four hostages, something that has never been confirmed by the Malian government, along with the release of 200 prisoners, some of whom were jihadists.
In October, Switzerland was informed that the GSIM had killed an evangelical missionary who had been kidnapped in Timbuktu in January 2016.
In March, the Swiss foreign ministry said the woman’s body had been recovered and formally identified.