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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 14:20 GMT

World: Africa

Rally drivers ambushed

The rally is one of the world's toughest motorsports events

Fifty competitors in the Dakar Rally have been ambushed by armed robbers in Mauritania.

The 20-strong gang stole four cars, three trucks and a motorbike, and siphoned off fuel from all the vehicles left behind, organisers said.

The drivers and co-drivers were reportedly frisked and all their papers and money taken in Wednesday night's ambush.

The robbers, described as highly-organised, were lying in wait for the competitors along a stretch of the official route between Nema and Tichit on the 12th stage of the rally.

The stolen vehicles included two organisers' cars, two press cars and two trucks belonging to competitors.

The race goes on

Rally co-ordinators met on Thursday to discuss the next stretch between Tichit and Atar in the light of the ambush.

But race director Hubert Auriol said the 13th stage would still go ahead.

Everyone caught up in the ambush got back to Tichit unharmed.

The annual rally, in which competitors drive from Paris to Dakar, began on 1 January.

This year 160 competitors are fighting it out in trucks, cars and on bikes, over the 10,000 kilometres route.

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