The Dakar motorsport rally was formerly known as "The Paris–Dakar Rally. It started in 1978 and ended getting cancelled in 2008 due to terrorist threats in Mauritania. Subsequently it is now annually held in Argentina and Chile.
“Cancelled due to safety fears”
The organisers were forced to cancel the 2008 rally because of a poor security condition in North Africa. Very little detailed information is made known about the reasons for this cancellation. It is directly linked to the murder of 4 French tourists in Mauretania in Dec 2007. The rally organisers themselves received direct threats from terrorists groups. Here is an extract of the statement issued at the time:
"Based on the current international political tension and the murder of four French tourists but also and mainly the direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organisations, no other decision but the cancellation could be taken.”
The Islamic angle - "al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" (Qaedat al-Jihad ﬁ Bilad al-Maghrib al-Islami)
Who were these terrorists, as unnamed in much of the internet articles on the Dakar Rally. The clue is this: AQMI. Digging down further on the internet (in French press), reveals that the original grave concern was due to an communique issued on the 29 December 2007, denouncing the Mauritanian authorities, their support in providing safety and security to the event. Moreover, the attack on the French tourists was also attributed to the work of AQMI.
So basically, since 2009, the Rally organisers are playing it very safe by holding the event far from troublesome North Africa areas. Parts of the rally ‘stages’ had been previously skipped due to security concerns, but 2008 the whole event was cancelled. This shows the reality that the ongoing poor security and presence of Islamic terrorists have at times since 2009, gained the upper hand, i.e. Mali in 2013. This group are well-funded through the proceeds of kidnappings; see the New York Times “Kidnappings fuels extremistsin Western Africa”. In the article, a local commander said” Lots of Western countries are paying enormous sums to the jihadists.”
One former Canadian hostage wrote about his experience in a book, “A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda.” He talked about the mentality and mind-set of his kidnappers: “There’s no doubt of their faith: they would sit chanting in the full Sahara sun for hour after hour.” Mr. Fowler added: “They are realists in the sense that they understand realpolitik. They understand pressure on governments.” Coming back in a full circle, we see the direct consequence of their successful pressure, when watch the progress of the Dakar Rally in Argentina or Chile.
Blast from the past
The question we need ask ourselves, why are allowing Western governments to cave into the terrorists, by paying huge ransom pay to the jihadists. Perversely, this has a matching echo, one from the past, not from land-based jihadists, but their seagoing counterparts, in the form of the Barbary Pirates. That is another story in itself.