France weighs cancelling Dakar Rally after explosion in Saudi

France is contemplating cancelling the Dakar Rally after an explosion in Saudi Arabia that badly injured a French driver and prosecutors are investigating it as a suspected terrorist assault, the international minister stated on Friday.

French prosecutors had stated on Tuesday that that they had opened a terror probe into the December 30 blast focusing on a automobile in Jeddah, which left 61-year-old driver Philippe Boutron needing surgical procedure for severe leg accidents earlier than he returned to France.

“We thought that maybe it’s best to abandon this sporting event … the question remains open,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian advised BFM TV, including that “there was potentially a terror attack against the Dakar”.

The gruelling race, previously known as the Paris-Dakar and now recognized simply because the Dakar, was staged from the French capital following a path to the Senegalese capital Dakar.

But safety threats alongside its route in North Africa meant that from 2009 it was held in South America and from 2020 in Saudi Arabia.

National anti-terror prosecutors stated in an announcement on Tuesday that they had opened a probe into “multiple attempted killings in connection with a terrorist group”.

All 5 occupants of the automobile, together with the motive force, have been French.

One of the passengers, driver Thierry Richard, advised the AFP information company on Tuesday that he had little question that the automobile was focused intentionally.

“It was an attack, they blew us up,” he stated, including that the incident had felt “like something from a war scene”.

The influence of the blast lifted the automobile off the bottom and it instantly caught hearth, Richard stated.

“We’re not stupid, we know what an explosion feels like,” he stated.

Boutron’s son stated on Thursday that his father had emerged from a coma, although each his legs have been “badly injured”.

France has warned its residents in Saudi Arabia to train “maximum alertness – security risk” within the wake of the blast.

“The possibility of a criminal act has not been ruled out,” the ministry stated in up to date steering on its web site.

France routinely investigates crimes dedicated towards its residents overseas.

The head of the Dakar rally dominated out ending the continued competitors in Saudi Arabia following the explosion that.

Franceinfo radio quoted Dakar director David Castera on its web site as saying that “the question is not being raised at the moment” and that ample security measures have been put in place because of Saudi authorities to make sure the security of the rally.

‘At any cost?’

But in France, media and politicians have raised questions over the insistence of the Saudi authorities and the race organisers that the explosion was not the results of any legal exercise.

“Is the Dakar supposed to take place at any cost, despite very strong suspicions that this was an attack,” requested the left-leaning Liberation newspaper, observing that organisers had remained “very tightlipped” concerning the incident.

Senator Jean-Pierre Sueur, a member of the opposition Socialist Party and former minister, in the meantime requested Le Drian to clarify how vigorously the federal government was pursuing its seek for solutions from Saudi Arabia and the race organisers.

In an announcement, Sueur stated he had notably requested Le Drian “whether he could explain the reasons why the facts had been kept hidden” and whether or not French anti-terror investigators could be allowed by the Saudis to analyze the incident totally.

In Friday’s interview, Le Drian known as for “the greatest possible transparency” from Saudi Arabia.

French pursuits had prior to now been focused by “terrorist acts”, he stated.

In October of 2020, a guard on the French consulate in Jeddah was injured in a knife assault. Two weeks later, two individuals have been injured in an assault on a gathering of international diplomats, together with the French, for the anniversary of the armistice ending World War I.

The ultimate stage of this yr’s race is scheduled to happen on January 14.

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