Al-Qaeda Threats Kill 2008 Dakar Rally

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jan. 07, 2008
Citing threats from an Algerian-based branch of well-known Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda, recent killings and "international tensions," Dakar Rally organizers terminated the 2008 event on Friday, January 4, a day before it was to begin.

This marks the first time in the rally's 30 years that it's been called off.

Part of the race’s 5,000 plus-mile route was to pass through the North-West African country of Mauritania - officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. A December 24, 2007 attack on a French family living in Nouakchott, the Atlantic coastal capital of Mauritania, as well prior bombings in the region and confirmation from the French government that the race was threatened influenced the rally's French-based organizers to stop altogether the annual race.

A criticism against Mauritania's government for fostering an environment suitable for "infidels"” involved in the rally was posted December 29, 2007 on an Internet site often used by al-Qaeda, though nothing specific was spelled out for the rally itself.

Mohamed El Moustapha Ould Cheibani, head of a tour agency in Atar, a city 270 miles north of Nouakchott, echoed Mauritania's foreign minister sentiments saying that France’s fears are "unfounded." In an effort to quell fears, the Mauritaniain government was willing to provide a 3,000-man security force to ensure safety for the race. Eight of the rally’s stages were to take place in Mauritania.

Without wanting to reflect ill-will toward Mauritania, Amaury Sport Organization, the race’s organizers, heeded French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s warning that the region is "dangerous."

Thinking only of all those involved, from race teams to spectators, ASO said that they had "no other decision but to cancel..."