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Dakar route unchanged despite threats

The Lisbon-Dakar Rally will follow its planned route through Mauritania despite two deadly attacks, one of them claimed as an Al Qaeda raid, a senior event official said.

An unauthenticated audio recording broadcast by Al Arabiya television said Al Qaeda's North African wing - Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - had killed four Mauritanian soldiers in the remote north of the country late on Wednesday.

The attack came after gunmen shot dead four French tourists in Mauritania on Monday, which officials have said may have been carried out by Islamic militants.

The attacks raised fears that Al Qaeda-linked militants who have carried out attacks in Algeria and Morocco may be seeking to extend operations southwards to Mauritania, Mali and Senegal, where the rally is due to finish on January 20th.

Roger Kalmanovitz, the rally's head of security, has been in the country meeting military, police and government officials and said the January 5-20 event would go ahead as planned.

"We are satisfied and the rally will indeed start in Lisbon on January 5th and arrive on Mauritanian soil on January 11th," he told reporters in the capital Nouakchott.

Last year, organisers of the 9,000km (5,600 miles) race cancelled two stages after France's security services said rally participants risked being kidnapped or ambushed by Algerian rebels while passing through Mali.


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