French counterterrorism prosecutors investigate Dakar rally explosion

PARIS (AP) – The French national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office on Tuesday opened an investigation into a car explosion last week before the Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia which seriously injured French driver Philippe Boutron.

The office will investigate an “attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise” following Thursday’s explosion in Jeddah, where teams have gathered to prepare for the start of New Years Day on Saturday.

Boutron is currently recovering in France.

Boutron was driving an assistance vehicle when the explosion occurred under a driver’s side pedal. He was one of the five drivers of the vehicle.

Race director David Castera said Boutron had successful leg surgery on Saturday.

His team, SodiCars Racing, said on Tuesday that Boutron had been repatriated on Monday to a military hospital in Clamart, in the south-western suburbs of Paris, where he was placed in an artificial coma “to relieve his suffering”.

SodiCars gave the medical update at the request of Boutron’s wife, Anne, and her children.

Co-pilot Mayeul Barbet, who also returned to France, said on the team’s website that the occupants of the vehicle were “shocked and could not move” after the explosion. Boutron then called for his help.

“The car started to catch on fire and Philippe asked me to help him out of the seat,” said Barbet. “He didn’t feel his legs. I saw the extent of the damage when I started to help him and, having some knowledge of first aid, I started to apply tourniquets (because) he was losing a lot of blood. “

Barbet said Boutron remained conscious and an ambulance arrived after 20 minutes.

The race was formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally. Until 2008, rallies raced across Africa, but threats in Mauritania led organizers to cancel this year’s event and move it to South America. Since 2020, it takes place in Saudi Arabia.


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