Paris-Dakar called off
Rally was cancelled on the eve of the race because of terror threats and the recent murder of a French family in Mauritania
7 January 2008 - The annual Paris-Dakar Rally was cancelled on the eve of the race because of terror threats and the recent murder of a French family in Mauritania that was blamed on al-Qaida-linked extremists. This is the first time in the 30-year history of the car, motorcycle and truck race across the Sahara that it has been called off.
In a statement, the organisers blamed international tensions, including the murder of a French family on 24 December and "threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations". The French government had urged the rally organisers to avoid Mauritania after the murders that were blamed on a terror cell that uses the Mauritanian desert as a hideout.
The race, organised by the French-based Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), had been due to start in Lisbon, Portugal, on Saturday .
Eight of the stages had been set to take place in Mauritania. Some 550 car, truck and bike drivers were expected for the 9,270-kilometer trek.
The end for Paris-Dakar
The cancellation of the Paris-Dakar rally is a major blow for the Belgians that had planned to take part in the race. Jacky Loomans, who was about to embark on his 20th Dakar rally told the VRT that he fear that this “is the end for the Dakar-rally”. “We were already unable to go through Mali, Algeria en Niger and now Mauritania has been added to the list."
"I had expected some measures to be taken but not this."
"The situation must be extremely bad. I thought that they might have asked us to drive along the coast or establish an air bridge like in 2000”.
Mr Loomans added that the decision would not be without financial consequences for those who had hoped to compete.
Another Belgian competitor, the singer and television presenter Koen Wauters, described the situation as “chaotic”.