The Dakar Rally was canceled Friday on the eve of the race because of terrorist threats and the recent slaying of a French family in Mauritania that was blamed on Al Qaeda-linked militants.

It was the first time in the 30-year history of the automobile, motorbike and truck race across the deserts of north Africa that it has been canceled.

In a statement, organizers blamed international tensions, the slaying of four family members on Dec. 24, and "direct threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organizations" for the cancellation.

"No other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken," the statement said.

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