Bin Laden issues threat of violence to French people

AL-QAIDA leader Osama bin Laden warned France yesterday that its planned ban on the veil in public places and its involvement in the war in Afghanistan justified violence against its nationals.

In an audio recording aired by Al-Jazeera television, Bin Laden said last month’s kidnapping of seven foreigners, five of them French, in the Sahara desert in northern Niger was a warning.

Bin Laden, in the message directed to the French people, said he wanted to set out “the reasons for threatening your security and taking your people as prisoners”.

“How could you take part in occupying our countries and support the Americans in killing our children and women, and then expect to live in peace and security?” he asked.

“It is very simple: as you kill, you will be killed; as you take hostages, you will be taken hostages; and as you compromise our security, we will compromise your security,” he said in the message, the authenticity of which could not immediately be verified.

The al-Qaida leader warned the French government to pull its troops out of Afghanistan.

“The way to protect your security is to bring your tyranny against our nation to an end, most importantly to withdraw from the damned war of (former US president George W) Bush in Afghanistan,” he said in the message, which lasted 1 minute 55 seconds.

The seven hostages — five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan — were seized in a Niger uranium-mining town on the night of September 15 to September 16.

On September 30, Al-Qaida’s North African branch posted a photograph and audio recordings of the seven hostages, most working for the French nuclear group Areva and its subcontractors.

The French government has indicated it is willing to talk to the kidnappers, but has received no contact from the group.

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