Security Threats Cancel Dakar Race

For the first time in 30 years, the Dakar race has been cancelled. You may not be familiar with Dakar, but what is important is that security could not be provided for the international motor race because of direct threats made by al Qaeda. The race runs from Portugal to Senegal.

The race has always been about innovation, determination and most of all, international goodwill. The race is a high-profile event in an overseas venue, second only to the World Cup. But the remote terrain that the race covers isn’t very secure.

Smaller cultural events have been canceled before because of the threat of terrorism, but it has not happened with such a major international event. Even at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the games proceeded after a 34-hour pause. Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were killed Palestinian gunmen.

The threat from al Qaeda is significant because it would be nearly impossible to secure the entire Dakar race course. When the thugs and bullies that are al Qaeda make a direct threat security officers don’t ask for details. They take the threat seriously.

According to an Associated Press story, Patrice Clerc, who heads the company that organizes the rally said, “It was enough for me to hear my government say ‘beware, the danger is at a maximum.’”

While security for an event like this is paramount, bowing to terror threats could encourage more violence. In this case, al Qaeda has scored a media victory, if nothing else. The jihadists are pleased with the closing of this race and view it as a victory.

The appeal of this race through the African deserts, scrubland and savannas is a weak point for security. It would be extremely difficult to protect competitors and race workers through these remote regions. Canceling the race was obviously the right thing to do for both safety and security reasons.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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