The Dakar Rally has been cancelled for the first time in its 30-year history due to security concerns in Mauritania, where four French tourists were killed on Christmas Eve.
The French government held meetings with the rally organisers on Thursday and advised them to cancel the event. At the same time it issued a warning to French nationals to steer clear of the country.
Race organiser Etienne Lavigne made the announcement in Lisbon, the starting point for the rally: "The organisers of the Dakar rally have taken the decision to cancel the 2008 edition.
"This was based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists and also the direct threats launched against the race by terrorist organisations. No other decision but the cancellation of the event could have been taken."
The rally was due to start in the Portuguese capital on Saturday before crossing Morocco.
The stage in Mauritania was due to run from January 11 to January 19, finishing in Dakar, Senegal, on January 20.
Three attackers gunned down the four French tourists and injured a fifth as they enjoyed a roadside picnic on Christmas Eve in the south of the country, close to the border with Senegal.
Authorities believe the killers have links to al Qaeda.
|Liveleak on Facebook|