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Trouble in Mauritania

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Lisbon to Dakar Rally Cancelled

On 24 December a part of French tourists were picnicking near the small town of Aleg, 150 miles east of Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott. They were approached by a group of gunmen who demanded money. When the tourists refused, the gunmen shot four of the party dead. The local police believe that the gunmen have links with Al Qaeda. (see Guardian news item) Subsequently the French Government advised French citizens not to travel to Mauritania, and advised the French organisers of the Lisbon-Dakar Rally not to go ahead with the event (see further Guardian news item)  and on 4 January, the 2008 Rally was cancelled. (see announcement) Meanwhile the UK Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel in eastern parts of Mauritania, adjacent to Algeria and Mali. (Foreign Office announcement)

Plymouth to Bamako & Banjul Challenges

The 2008 Plymouth-Dakar Challenge destinations are Bamako/Timbuktu for groups 1 to 5, and Banjul for groups 6 to 9. The Bamako/Timbuktu route keeps close to the Senegal border before crossing into Mali, so hopefully avoids the problematic areas. Groups 1 to 3 have already passed through Mauritania, and many have already completed the challenge. Group 4 are close to entering Mauritania, while Group 5 have yet to start from the UK on 11 January. The route of the Banjul Challenge stays close to the coast through Mauritania. Some of Group 6 have already crossed Mauritania, Group 7 are mainly in Morocco and Group 8 are in France or Spain. Group 9 are due to leave the UK on 11 January. Unlike the Lisbon-Dakar Rally, these challenges are completely unsupported, so the teams are making their own decisions. It seems that they are all likely to proceed with their journeys, keeping up to date with the latest news and taking sensible extra precautions. It is possible that the journey through Mauritania will keep to tarmac roads, rather than going 'off piste', and teams will keep together in large convoys. Team Transplant Titans in Group 9 have their web page on the Pageant site, where you can find more news.

The 4Ts Adventure

The 4Ts Adventure is two cars making an independent trip to Timbuktu and Bamako. The latest report is that they have crossed into Mauritania, but there is no indication that they intend to change their itinerary.

Update 7 January

Julian Nowill, one of the organisers of the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge has been in touch with teams currently in or near Mauritania. No one has reported any signs of trouble, and so far only two teams have given up the Challenge, and this could be for any number of reasons. On the bulletin boards, many teams have expressed their intention of pressing on. It looks like the Challenge will continue unless there is a serious deterioration in the security situation.

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