A French journalist landed an interview with a jihadist leader in Mali. What was posted instead was his own kidnapping video, and no one has seen it since.



Olivier Dubois is pictured during a report in Nioro, Mali, September 14, 2020.Michèle Cattani / AFP via Getty Images

  • French journalist Olivier Dubois has not been seen for nine months.

  • He was kidnapped in April 2021 while scheduled to interview a jihadist leader in Mali.

  • A month later, a video of him was released saying he was in his custody.

A French journalist has been missing for nine months since appearing in a kidnapping video apparently released by the jihadist group he sought to interview.

On April 8, 2021, Olivier Dubois flew from the Malian capital, Bamako, to Gao, according to an arrangement made by his fixer, Agence France-Presse reported. The fixer had secured him an interview with JNIM leader Abdallah Ag Albakaye, the agency reported.

But on May 5, a 20-second video was posted to social media showing Dubois sitting in a tent, claiming he was being held by al-Qaeda-affiliated group Jamaa Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) .

Living in Mali since 2015, Dubois is well connected, especially in jihadist circles, according to Le Monde. Liberation, the French newspaper he had worked with, said he refused the interview with the group on the grounds that it was too dangerous, but Dubois left all the same.

Two days later, while expected to return from Gao, he did not show up at the airport, AFP reported.

The French Embassy in Mali did not immediately announce her disappearance as she was working behind the scenes to secure her release, the Washington Post reported. But on May 5, after the video was released, the embassy confirmed the kidnapping and said it attempted to verify the authenticity of the video.

His disappearance was initially kept secret in order to facilitate negotiations, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

The embassy did not return Insider’s request for an update on the situation.

The video was posted by pro-al-Qaeda outlet Wareeth al-Qassam, according to CPJ. Wareeth al-Qassam did not take responsibility for the kidnapping, CPJ reported. It is not known if the images have since been verified.

The Post reported that in the video he viewed, Dubois appeared to be wearing traditional clothing and sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“My name is Olivier Dubois. I am French. I am a journalist. I was kidnapped in Gao on April 8 by JNIM,” he told the Post. “I am talking to my family, my friends and the French authorities to do everything in their power to free me.”

JNIM is the largest jihadist alliance in the Sahel, the region comprising Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and has caused widespread fear among journalists, according to France24.

The friends and family of journalist Olivier Dubois, gather for a solidarity march in Bamako on July 17, 2021. They wear white t-shirts on which we can read:

Friends and family of journalist Olivier Dubois gather for a solidarity march in Bamako on July 17, 2021.Annie Risemberg / AFP via Getty Images

On the day Dubois was kidnapped, his fixer saw him leave his hotel and get into his car with several men, AFP reported.

Whenever he headed for a dangerous mission, Dubois gave his partner Deborah Al Hawi Al Marsi a discreet set of contacts to call in case he didn’t return, according to CPJ, which is campaigning for his release.

This sheet of paper was usually destroyed upon his return from those trips – but Al Marsi first used it on April 10, when Dubois did not board his return plane, CPJ reported.

Cannelle Bernard gives a speech on June 8, 2021 in Paris, during a rally for his half-brother the French journalist Olivier Dubois,

Dubois’s sister-in-law, Cannelle Bernard, delivers a speech on June 8, 2021 in Paris.Lucas Barioulet / AFP via Getty Images

In an interview with CPJ in October, Al Marsi said she knew very little about the negotiation process between the Malian and French authorities, but understood the need for secrecy.

“We miss Olivier deeply every day,” she told the organization. “You can’t go a minute without thinking about him. Yesterday my five year old son asked me, ‘Mom, when we go to Disneyland with Dad, will we take the subway?’

“It’s a simple question, but to me that says it all,” she continued. “Olivier is always part of our lives. Our life projects always include him and we never doubt that he will come back to us.”

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