The Dakar Rally has been cancelled a day prior to its schedule start due to security concerns in Mauritania where four French tourists were killed last month, according to event organizers.
The France-based Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), which is in charge of the 3720-mile rally, said in a statement they had been advised by the French government to cancel the race which was due to begin on Saturday from Lisbon.
Organizers also stated that direct threats had been made against the event by “terrorist organizations.”
The rally has been held since 1979, though stages have been cancelled in the past for safety reasons.
“The organizers of the Dakar have taken the decision to cancel the 2008 edition of the rally scheduled from the 5th to the 20th of January between Lisbon and Senegal’s capital,” the ASO statement read. “Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists… but also 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.”
Three attackers, who authorities suspect were linked to al Qaeda, gunned down four French tourists and injured a fifth near Senegal border. Gunmen killed three soldiers three days later in the remote and sparsely populated north of the country, bordering Algeria and Morocco’s breakaway territory of Western Sahara.