France confirms body found in Mali is French hostage


France confirmed that a body found in northern Mali was that of the French geologist Philippe Verdon, taken hostage in November 2011.

Al Qaeda’s North African arm, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said in March that it had beheaded Verdon in response to France’s military intervention in Mali.
“The remains will be transferred to our country as soon as possible and autopsies will allow us to know the cause of death,” President Francois Hollande said in a statement, Reuters reports.

Hollande had said in his Bastille Day speech on Sunday that it was possible Verdon had died several weeks ago but that his death had not been officially confirmed.

France sent 3,000 troops to Mali, its former colony, in January to halt an offensive by al Qaeda-linked Islamists, ending their 10-month domination of the north of the country.

AQIM said at the end of June that eight other foreign hostages it was holding, including five French, were alive.