Dubai: Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned France on Thursday that its planned ban on the veil in public places and its involvement in the war in Afghanistan justified violence against its nationals.
France expressed concern and insisted on the need for vigilance, adding however that authorities were verifying the authenticity of the remarks.
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.
"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?" Bin Laden 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, which lasted 1 minute 55 seconds.
The Al-Qaeda 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.
Responding to the message, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said France is under "real" terror threat which needs "total vigilance."
"We do know that the (terrorist) threat is real and vigilance must be total," Hortefeux told a National Assembly meeting in Paris.
"Based on what we currently know, these declarations only justify maintaining our response based on the terrorist threat," he said, referring to France`s Vigipirate national security system which is now red alert -- one down from the highest scarlet level.
Hortefeux -- who earlier this month said that Saudi security forces warned about an Al-Qaeda threat to Europe and to France in particular -- said authorities were verifying the authenticity of the remarks.
"Supposing they`re authentic they would be part of various threats that have been made against our country and our nationals, abroad and in France."
The seven hostages -- five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan -- were seized in a Niger uranium-mining town on the night of September 15-16.
They are believed by intelligence agents in countries concerned to be held in an area of the Sahara desert in neighbouring Mali.
"The kidnapping of your experts in Niger... is in retaliation for the tyranny you practice against our Muslim nation," Bin Laden said of the abductions, which have been claimed by Al-Qaeda`s North African branch.