The body of a French hostage who was announced killed by his al-Qaeda captors in March appears to have been found in Mali, a member of the investigating team has said.
Tests are currently being done to see if the body found in early July is that of Philippe Verdon, said an AFP news agency source, on condition of anonymity, on Sunday.
Verdon was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from a hotel while on business in northeastern Mali in November 2011.
Earlier on Sunday, French President Francois Hollande said in an interview that Verdon appeared to have been killed.
“We have the worst of news on Philippe Verdon,” Hollande said. “Everything indicates that he died weeks ago.”
AQIM announced in March that it had killed 53-year-old Verdon, but French authorities have not officially confirmed this.
AQIM is currently holding hostage eight Europeans, including five French nationals.
Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Feret, who worked for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom, were kidnapped in Niger by the al-Qaeda-linked fighters on September 16, 2010.
Francoise Larribe, wife of Daniel, was also captured but was released in 2011.
The fifth French hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped along with Verdon. AQIM said in late June that the eight Europeans are alive and that it would soon release a new video of the five Frenchmen.