The French foreign ministry has called for “maximum vigilance” after a car participating in the renowned Paris-Dakar rally was hit by an explosion in Saudi Arabia last week that badly wounded its driver.
The ministry added that “the hypothesis of a criminal act” had not been ruled out and recalled that “the terrorist threat persists in Saudi Arabia”.
The race organisation explained that a “malicious act” could not be ruled out.
The French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT) said in a statement that the investigation is open for “attempted murder in relation to a terrorist undertaking”. The investigation has been entrusted to the Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), the country’s counter-terrorism security agency.
The statement added that all five occupants of the car including the driver were French. It gave no further details over the blast
After the 30 December attack in the city of Jeddah, the driver, Philippe Boutron, underwent surgery in Saudi Arabia for serious leg injuries before returning to France.
Organisers had said that the incident was not related to racing while Saudi authorities had indicated there was no criminal suspicion over the explosion.
The famous race, which started in 1978, used to be staged from the French capital following a route to the Senegalese capital Dakar. However, security threats along its route in north Africa meant that from 2009 it was held in South America and from 2020 in Saudi Arabia.
The final stage of this year’s edition – known as the Dakar 2022 – is to take place on 14 January.