His relatives hammered that it was an attack, when the authorities did not rule out any clues. The explosion that “Hit the vehicle occupied by a crew of five French” and seriously injured the driver Philippe Boutron, December 30, 2021, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, two days before the official start of the Dakar rally-raid, is now the subject of a preliminary investigation for “attempted assassinations in relation with a terrorist enterprise ”, announced the National Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office in a press release on Tuesday January 4th. The investigations are entrusted to the General Directorate of Internal Security.
A little earlier in the day, the Sodicars Racing team, some of whose members were in the vehicle during the tragedy, had let it be known that Philippe Boutron, 61, is “Placed in an artificial coma so as to alleviate his suffering”, his legs having been “Banged up” by the explosion. He was taken care of at the Percy military hospital, in Clamart (Hauts-de-Seine). His co-driver, Mayeul Barbet, is also back in France, where, specifies the Girondine team, “He is rebuilding himself morally after having lived one of the most painful weeks of his life”.
“We were blown up”
What really happened on Thursday, December 30? The course of events is now known, but gray areas remain around the causes of the explosion, which prematurely ended Philippe Boutron’s ninth Dakar.
He was behind the wheel of the assistance vehicle, on board which his co-pilot and four other people were also seated in order to reach the bivouac where the pre-race technical verifications were taking place. After driving a few hundred meters out of their hotel, an explosion occurred near a gas station. “The car started to catch fire, and Philippe asked me to come and help him out of the seat”, says Mayeul Barbet in a testimony relayed on January 2 by Sodicars Racing.
For the latter, it is not an accident but a “Attack” using a bomb placed in the side member, one of the chassis parts. A thesis shared by Thierry Richard, 57, also present in the 4 × 4 during the drama. “We saw the impact under the vehicle. We are not stupid, we also know what an explosion is. We took a breath in the car, described the pilot to Agence France-Presse (AFP). We were blown up. “
Until Tuesday, the French foreign ministry and the race manager, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), did not exclude this track but were less categorical. “The hypothesis of a criminal act is not ruled out” and “The terrorist threat persists in Saudi Arabia”, recognized the Quai d’Orsay, calling in its travel advice to the “Maximum vigilance” after this « explosion ». Through the voice of the boss of the race, David Castera, ASO had made it known that he was not pushing back “No possibility, including that of a malicious act », and announced the strengthening of the security measures in force on “The whole course, the hotels and the bivouacs”.
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Explosion on the Dakar 2022: investigation opened by the National Anti-terrorism Prosecutor’s Office