The Three Days in America festival scheduled for this weekend in Paris has been cancelled, after organisers received death threats from a group claiming links to Al Qaida. Event organisers said they decided to postpone the festival for the public's safety.
Death threats and warnings suggesting the event might be attacked were made in anonymous telephone calls and a poorly-written letter containing spelling errors. The threats claimed the festival's organisers support "American imperialists" and the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Some people refer to the right-wing president as "Sarkozy the American" for his pro-US views.
After meeting police and anti-terrorist officers, Gilles Yolle, the festival director, said he did not regret calling off the festival, planned for this weekend in the Parc Saint Cloud on the outskirts of Paris. The event was expected to attract 20,000 visitors.
The festival, featuring country music and gospel music by American and European performers, line-dancing, a display of classic American cars and tributes to Elvis Presley and John Wayne, was also targeted last year. Press officer Chantal Tenot said, "Last year we received threats several months before the event, but we discovered they came from a small group of North Africans in the banlieue and we were able to deal with them. This time when we received the letter with a mixture of threats, mentioning al-Qaida and full of spelling mistakes we weren't sure how serious it was. But coming just before the event we couldn't take the risk. It's in a big park and we cannot have a security officer up every tree."
Tenot told reporters that organisers hope to re-arrange the festival for September. "Then the elections will have long been over and hopefully the political situation will have calmed down a bit," she said.