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French Citizens Warned Ahead of Dakar Rally


The French government is warning its citizens not to travel to Mauritania for this month's Dakar Rally after four French tourists were killed there over the Christmas holiday.

French ministers discussed security for the rally at a Cabinet meeting in Paris Thursday and foreign ministry officials met with race organizers to discuss the risks.

French government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said the foreign ministry is warning all French citizens - including those involved in the rally - to stay away from Mauritania.

Four French tourists were killed on Christmas Eve in a town about 250 kms east of Mauritania's capital city Nouakchott. Authorities blamed a terror cell linked to an Algeria-based wing of al-Qaida. The same group has been blamed for the killing of several Mauritanian soldiers last week.

Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne has met with Mauritanian and French officials and obtained guarantees of increased security along this year's route.

The rally starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, and is scheduled to finish in Dakar, Senegal January 20th after crossing Morocco and Mauritania. More than 550 competitors are scheduled to compete on motorcycles and in cars and trucks. Last year, organizers of the 9,000-kilometer rally canceled two stages in Mali because of security concerns.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.