Saudi says no foul play in Dakar Rally blast that left driver injured, France mulls withdrawingtext_fields
Riyadh: An official statement published by the government of Saudi Arabia has concluded that their investigation into the December 30 blast that left one French driver injured found no evidence of criminal activity. The Kingdom is liaising with the concerned French authorities to share available evidence related to the accident, the Foreign Affairs ministry added in a statement on Friday.
However, French authorities remain unconvinced and on Friday, French Foreign Minister Jean Yves-Le Drian said that the country would be opening a terror probe into the blast which injured 61-year-old veteran racing driver Philippe Boutron and left him in a coma with shattered legs. While he has woken up from the coma, his legs require extensive care, Boutron's son Benoît told the media.
The blast was targeted at the support vehicle of the French rally team Sodicar after it left its hotel in Jeddah for the race venue. Five other members of the affected vehicle escaped, but Boutron, who was driving the car, did not.
"We told the organisers and the Saudi officials to be very transparent on what had happened because there was a hypothesis that it was a terrorist attack," Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio on Friday, sentiments which were echoed by the Sodicar team which also asserted that it was a "terror attack".
There have been rumours that the French teams, along with others, are reconsidering competing in the rally following such a breach of safety.
The rally is still scheduled to go ahead, as the Saudi government has said, in cooperation with the rally organisers, that it was keen to implement internationally approved safety and security standards in order to maintain the safety and security of all Dakar Rally participants, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
French citizens in the Kingdom have been warned to keep "maximum vigilance" in the wake of the incident, as France has not discounted the possibility of a terror attack, French government sites read.
The final stage of the rally will be held on January 14. The Dakar rally, usually from Paris to the Senegalese capital, was first held in 1978. It has taken place in Saudi Arabia since 2020 for security reasons.