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6 Jan, 2008 05:10

Al-Qaeda threats scupper Dakar rally

The 2008 Dakar rally has been cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history. The organisers pulled the plug following terror threats against drivers in Mauritania, the location of much of the race.

Organisers say threats were sent by local Al-Qaeda members to the Mauritanian government.

“Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists last December linked to a branch of Al-Qaeda, but mainly the direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations, no other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken,” said Etienne Lavigne, Dakar Rally Race Director.

About 550 competitors were meant to participate in the 16-day adventure that covers more than 9,000 kilometres of desert and dunes from Lisbon to Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

The Russian trucks class team KAMAZ who are rally's seven-time champions have called the cancellation a tragedy for the sport.