France considers canceling Dakar rally racing after explosion in Saudi Arabia

The French Foreign Minister said on Friday that after an explosion in Saudi Arabia, a French driver was seriously injured, France is considering canceling the Dakar Rally, and prosecutors are investigating the suspected terrorist attack.

French prosecutors said on Tuesday that they had launched a terrorist investigation into the explosion of a car in Jeddah on December 30, which resulted in the 61-year-old driver Philippe Boutron needing to accept before returning to France Surgery for severe leg injuries.

“We think it might be better to abandon this sporting event…The issue is still unresolved,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV, adding that “there is a possibility of a terrorist attack in Dakar.”

This arduous race, formerly known as Paris-Dakar, is now renamed Dakar. It used to start from the French capital and was held along the route to Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

However, due to security threats along North Africa, it will be held in South America from 2009 and Saudi Arabia from 2020.

The national counter-terrorism prosecutor said in a statement on Tuesday that they have begun investigations into “multiple attempted murders related to terrorist organizations.”

The five passengers in the car, including the driver, were all French.

One of the passengers, the driver Thierry Richard, told AFP on Tuesday that he had no doubt that the car was deliberately aimed.

“This was an attack and they blew us up,” he said, adding that the incident “feeled like something at the scene of a war.”

Richard said the impact of the explosion lifted the car off the ground and immediately caught fire.

“We are not stupid, we know what an explosion feels like,” he said.

Butron’s son said on Thursday that his father had recovered from a coma, but his legs were “seriously injured.”

France has warned its citizens in Saudi Arabia to maintain “the highest vigilance-security risks” after the explosion.

“The possibility of criminal acts is not ruled out,” the ministry said in an updated guide on its website.

France frequently investigates crimes committed against its overseas citizens.

The head of the Dakar Rally ruled out the possibility of ending the ongoing race in Saudi Arabia after the explosion.

Radio Franceinfo quoted Dakar director David Castera on its website as saying that “this issue has not been raised at this time” and because the Saudi authorities have taken sufficient security measures to ensure the safety of the assembly.

“at all costs?”

But in France, the media and politicians questioned the Saudi authorities and event organizers’ insistence that the bombing was not the result of any criminal activity.

“Although there are strong doubts that this was an attack, should Dakar be held at all costs,” the left-leaning Jiefang Daily asked, and observed that the organizers were “very tight-lipped” about the incident.

Senator Jean-Pierre Sur, a member of the opposition Socialist Party and former minister, also asked Le Drian to explain how actively the government is seeking answers from Saudi Arabia and the game organizers.

Sur said in a statement that he specifically asked Le Drian “whether he can explain the reasons for hiding the facts” and whether Saudi Arabia will allow French counter-terrorism investigators to conduct a full investigation of the incident.

In an interview on Friday, Le Drian called on Saudi Arabia to be “as transparent as possible.”

He said that France’s interests have been the target of “terrorist acts” in the past.

In October 2020, a guard of the French consulate in Jeddah was injured in a knife attack. Two weeks later, on the anniversary of the armistice of the First World War, a rally of foreign diplomats, including the French, was attacked and two people were injured.

The final stage of this year’s competition is scheduled to take place on January 14.