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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 20:41 GMT
Dakar Rally 'kidnap plot foiled'
Paris-Dakar Rally
French intelligence reportedly learned of a kidnap plot
French secret agents foiled a plan to attack the Paris-Dakar Rally earlier this month, according to the French magazine, Le Point.

It said a force of around 100 Islamic militants was going to kidnap rally competitors as they drove through Mali.

At the time, the 10th and 11th stages of the event were cancelled because of what were called "security reasons".

The French intelligence services reportedly learned of preparations by the militants.

"French intelligence had information which led us, with our colleagues in Mali...to take decisions which you have been able to read about in the press," a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

Le Point said that among those targeted was the leading French driver Stephane Peterhansel and Spanish motorcyclist, Nani Roma.

The attack was reportedly planned by a militant leader known as Abderrazak the Para.

French agents are thought to have learned that he was buying arms and other materials, and that around 100 militants were moving towards the Sokolo region in central Mali.

Abderrazak is alleged to have taken 32 Europeans hostage in the Sahara desert a year ago.

One woman died before they were freed.

Sixteen of the hostages were German, and the German Government has issued an international warrant for the arrest of Abderrazak, whose real name, they say, is Amari Saifi.

He is believed to have been a former Algerian paratrooper who the Algerian authorities have tied to the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which has alleged links to al-Qaeda.

Dakar stages cancelled
09 Jan 04  |  Motorsport
Sahara hostage tells of ordeal
15 May 03  |  Africa

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