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Terror Threats Cancel Dakar Rally

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Terror threats cancel Dakar rally

By JAMEY KEATEN

Associated Press Writer

function PopupPic(sPicURL, sHeight, sWidth) { window.open( "http://media.kansascity.com/static/popup.html?"+sPicURL, "", "resizable=1,HEIGHT=" +sHeight+ ",WIDTH=" +sWidth); }579-875PORTUGAL_DAKAR_RALLY_.sff.embedded.prod_affiliate.81.jpgChristophe EnaCompetitors stand near their cars after the ASO (Amaury Sport Organization) decided to cancel The Dakar Rally on the eve of the race in Lisbon, Portugal, Friday Jan. 4, 2008. Citing direct threats from terror groups, organizers have canceled the entire Dakar Rally. Eight stages of the race, which was to start in Lisbon on Saturday, would have taken place in Mauritania, where a French family was killed on Christmas Eve in an attack blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants.


The Dakar Rally, the epic motorcycle, car and truck race across the Sahara desert, was canceled Friday by organizers citing "direct" threats of terrorism from al-Qaida-linked militants.

The race was deemed too inviting - and too easy - a target for the terror group's new north African affiliate. The roughly 550 competitors were to have embarked Saturday on the 16-day, 5,760-mile trek through remote and hostile dunes and scrub from Europe to Senegal in west Africa.

Organizers of the rally, once known as the Paris-Dakar, cited warnings from the French government about safety after the al-Qaida-linked Dec. 24 slaying of a family of French tourists in Mauritania - where eight of the competition's 15 stages were to be held - and "threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organizations."

It was the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one of the biggest competitions in automobile racing, has been called off. The Dakar is one of the most prominent public events to be canceled since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when many sports events in the United States were canceled or postponed - some as a result of airport closings or in mourning for the victims.

The cancellation of such a world-renowned sports event is rare, particularly as a pre-emptive measure against terrorism. Even the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich continued, following a 34-hour pause, after 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed by Palestinian gunmen.

Victor Anderes, vice president of special projects at Global Security Associates, a New York-based firm that provides security for high-profile events including the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, called the cancellation unprecedented.

"Smaller cultural events have been canceled before because of terror threats, but this hasn't happened with such a major international event," he said.

"The threat is significant," Anderes said. "It would be almost impossible to secure the entire course." He said the race is particularly vulnerable because it crosses different countries and large, unpopulated areas.

"When you are told of direct threats against the event and when the sinister name of al-Qaida is mentioned, you don't ask for details," Patrice Clerc, who heads the company that organizes the rally, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It was enough for me to hear my government say 'beware, the danger is at a maximum.'"

Experts cautioned - as Western governments have often warned - that bowing to terror threats could encourage more violence. They said al-Qaida's North African wing had scored propaganda points as it seeks to increase its reach in the region.

"They scored a media victory without firing a shot," said Louis Caprioli, a former assistant director at France's counterintelligence agency DST. "Everybody gets the impression that they are very powerful, when they in fact represent a small number of people in this region."

Adam Raisman, senior analyst at the SITE Institute in Washington, said "the jihadist Internet community is quite happy with the closing, seeing it as a victory."

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa is the rebranded name of an Algeria-based insurgent group known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC. Al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, first recognized a "blessed union" between the two groups on Sept. 11, 2006.

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa counts no more than several hundred members in Algeria and only a few dozen in Mauritania, said Caprioli, who now works for the risk-management company Geos.

But the group has adopted al-Qaida techniques to increase its impact. It claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings last month in Algeria's capital that hit U.N. offices and a government building, killing 37 people - including 17 U.N. staff members. That attack was the most dramatic in a string of recent suicide bombings in Algeria.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and terrorism expert who now works at the Brookings Institution, called al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa "a threat to be reckoned with."

Rally organizer Clerc, in the AP interview, acknowledged that "Yes, we perhaps bowed to terrorism," but that security needed to come first: "We don't have the right to play games with safety."

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, in a Dec. 29 statement posted on an Internet site that it often uses, had criticized Mauritania's government for "providing suitable environments to the infidels for the rally." It did not directly call for attacks on the race or its participants.

The vast desert region stretching from southern Algeria through Mali and Mauritania has long been a prime haunt for traffickers in arms, cigarettes, drugs and other contraband, and a GSPC redoubt. It claimed responsibility for a June 2005 raid on a remote army post that killed 15 Mauritanian troops.

Another terror and smuggling chieftain in the region is Mokhtar Bel Mokhtar, a veteran militant said to have been behind threats against the rally several years ago.

The United States has had the lawless border zones in its sights for years. In 2004, it began a counterterrorism training program in Mauritania and three other Sahara countries as part of efforts to fight infiltration by militant groups.

The race had been due to start in Lisbon, Portugal, on Saturday, and finish in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20.

Thousands of Africans each year line ochre-colored, sandy roads as Dakar Rally racers speed through - at times crashing out or into spectators, and sometimes with deadly results.

The government in France, where race organizer Amaury Sports Organization is based, had urged the rally to avoid Mauritania after four French tourists were killed last month in a town 150 miles east of the capital as they picnicked on a roadside.

That attack was followed by another days later, when three Mauritanian soldiers manning a checkpoint were killed. Mauritania, a largely peaceful Islamic republic, was rocked by the back-to-back attacks.

Authorities blamed a terror "sleeper cell" linked to al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa for the tourists' murders. The group claimed responsibility for the killing of the soldiers in an audio tape released to Al-Arabiya TV station.

The race's central appeal - its course through African deserts, scrubland and savannas - is also a weak point for security, making it difficult to protect competitors and race workers as they cross remote regions.

Terrorism fears have previously forced organizers to cancel individual stages or reroute the race. In 2000, several legs were scrapped after a threat forced organizers to airlift the entire race from Niger to Libya to avoid danger zones. Several stages were also called off in 2004, reportedly because of terror threats in Mali.

Rally director Etienne Lavigne only recently approved the Mauritanian legs after two stages planned for Mali were scrapped over concerns about al-Qaida's north Africa affiliate there.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he did not want to "stigmatize" Mauritania, but warned on French radio RTL that there were risks "in a very uncertain region and one crossed by the networks of al-Qaida in North Africa."

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<H2 class=shirttail>Associated Press writers Ahmed Mohamed in Nouakchott, Mauritania, John Leicester in Paris and Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this report.</H2>

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This has nothing to do with F1, please learn to start new threads in the correct forum...

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I didn't mean it Ben, I'm sorry for the Inconvience, but im no wizard with a computer either.

I know I should have put it in the cafe.

Edited by Bro.

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TBH I didn't even recognise.

I feel bad now.

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TBH I didn't even recognise.

I feel bad now.

Relax Bro ! :lol:

Anyway its indeed very frustrating about the Dakar Rally. Lets hope we don't get to have such events cancelled in the future :blowup:

Imagine how irritating it must have been for the participants!

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Didn't mean to be rude, just wanted to give a bit of advice for future reference. Should have posted this in the 'Outside The F1 Circus' forum.

But I agree, it is a shame to cancel it completely for this year!

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Moved...

thankyou and good day! ^_^

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Cancelled eh? Looks like the terrorists won.............

Edited by Rainmaster

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No your Right Ben,

But how can people do this to the Dakar?

What does the Dakar have?

Thats what I'm Lost about.

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There is a possibility that the Rally would move to Argentina or Chile, perhaps both! :clap_3:

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There is a possibility that the Rally would move to Argentina or Chile, perhaps both! :clap_3:

Do you want the kids of your country to become roadkill?

It is staggering to read of the civilian death toll from this race even though they don't bother to keep track of it. In their own countries, they'd be up for manslaughter with the first one, and a decent human being would pack up and leave the minute someone mowed down a kid.

There's sport and then there's life. Sport isn't more important than anyone's life.

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Actually, this is more relevant to F1 than you think. Aside from the fact that I WAITED THE WHOLE YEAR for Dakar (I've been following Dakar since the 1980's, and now with 3 fully Polish teams, the former WRC and European Champions attending, not to mention the current World Bike Champion [Czachor-also Polish] with a good chance of actually getting on the podium, if not winning, I was REALLY very excited over this year's edition) and have a personal grudge against that low life scum of the Earth, let's look at how F1 is affected. ASO completely overreacted to the threat - I mean previous editions were shortened due to threats, so why not this one? Why did they cancel it completely?

But here is a question - what will F1 do if Monza is threatened? Bernie is moving GP venius to some God-forgotten areas of the Globe- How on Earth is he going to ensure security during GP India? What about Turkey? Is F1 ever going to Africa? Are we going to see cancellations of GPs because some ragtag "overlord" of a few scumbags with AK-47s says something to a newspaper in New Dehli? Dakar may move to South America or even be run Paris (Lisbon) - Beijin (not "Dakar Rally" anymore!) but where is Bernie going to move GP Monaco?

I think cancellation of Dakar was a horrible decision that affected other big sporting events, including F1 and I hope that Bernie is working on some plan so that what happened to Dakar will not happen to F1, although I believe it's a safe bet that it will, and soon.

Oh, and as to "staggering" toll of Dakar - it's likely WAY safer to watch Dakar competition than to actually travel those roads day-to-day. If it's that dangerous, don't go to see it. AND, the amount of money and aid provided by the competitors themselves and actually getting into those countries and reaching the populations along the route are enormous as compared to, say, F1 event. So I thing it's disingeniuous to bring up the risk without mentioning the benefits.

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