France wants Dakar to skip Mauritania after four vacationers slain

Updated: January 3, 2008, 1:06 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- France's government urged the Dakar Rally on Thursday to not race through Mauritania after the slaying there of four members of a vacationing French family.

The race starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, and is to finish in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20 after crossing Morocco and Mauritania. More than 550 competitors on motorbikes and in cars and trucks are expected to take part.

French ministers discussed safety at the rally at a cabinet meeting Thursday, and foreign ministry officials met with the race's French organizers, government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said.

"The ministry strongly warns all French citizens against going to Mauritania until further orders," Wauquiez said. "That goes for all French, as well as the organization of the Lisbon-Dakar rally."

Only the father of the slain family survived the Christmas Eve attack in a town 150 miles from Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, as the family picnicked on the side of a road. Authorities blamed a terror group linked to the Algeria-based al-Qaida in North Africa.

Rally director Etienne Lavigne subsequently met with Mauritanian and French authorities to examine security. Organizers said he obtained guarantees of reinforced security measures along the route.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press