A Malian intelligence official says about a half-dozen people have been detained by French forces east of the north Mali city of Kidal in connection with the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists.

The official, who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said the journalists' bodies were found next to the attackers' abandoned car. He said French troops followed the attackers' tracks in the sand and on Monday apprehended a group of men.

Witnesses reported that Radio France Internationale journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were grabbed by four men on Saturday after interviewing a Tuareg rebel leader.

The intelligence official said: "We believe that of the people they now have in custody, they have at least one of the four killers."