Cairo: Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden threatens in a new audio tape to kill French citizens to avenge their country`s support for the US-led war in Afghanistan and a new law that will ban face-covering Muslim veils.
In the tape posted on Al-Jazeera`s website, bin Laden said France was aiding the Americans in the killing of Muslim women and children in an apparent reference to the war in Afghanistan. He said the kidnapping of five French citizens in the African nation of Niger last month was a reaction to what he called France`s oppression of Muslims.
"How can it be right that you participate in the occupation of our lands, support the Americans in the killing of our women and children and yet want to live in peace?" said bin Laden, addressing the French.
"It is a simple equation: As you kill, you will be killed. As you capture, you will be captured. And as you threaten our security, your security will be threatened."
The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified but the voice resembled that of the terror group leader on previous tapes determined to be genuine. France`s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
France has about 4,000 troops deployed in and near Afghanistan.
The country passed a law this month that will ban the wearing of face-covering burqa-style Muslim veils in public starting in April. Many Muslims have expressed fears the law would stigmatize them.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of bin Laden`s group, has claimed responsibility for the abductions of five French citizens in Niger and is believed to have taken them to neighboring Mali. The French hostages, as well as a Togolese and a Madagascar national were kidnapped on Sept. 16 while they were sleeping in their villas in the uranium mining town of Arlit.
"The kidnapping of your experts in the Niger is a reaction to your oppression of Muslims," said bin Laden.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb grew out of an Islamist insurgency movement in Algeria, merging with al Qaeda in 2006 and spreading through the Sahara and the arid Sahel region. It has increasingly been targeting French interests.
In July, the group said it executed a 78-year-old French aid worker it had taken hostage three months before. It said the killing was retaliation for the deaths of six al Qaeda members in a French-backed military operation against the group.