Bin Laden warns France against burqua law in new audio tape

In a tape broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network today, a man purporting to be bin Laden, called on the people of France to stop "interven[ing] in the affairs of Muslims in North and West Africa".

"The only way to safeguard your nation and maintain your security is to withdraw your forces from (George W) Bush's despicable war," he said in an apparent reference the Afghanistan.

"If you unjustly thought that it is your right to prevent free Muslim women from wearing the face veil, is it not our right to expel your invading men and cut their necks?," he says, referring to the recently passed French legislation barring women from covering their faces in public.

"To the French people, I say that the formula is simple and clear: As you kill, you will be killed; as you imprison us, you will be imprisoned; as you threaten our security, we will threaten yours, and the one who started the oppression is the one to be blamed," he says.

Al-Qaeda's North African wing claimed responsibility for the September kidnappings of five French nationals, along with two others from Madagascar and Togo. Al-qaeda released photographs of the group late last month, showing the hostages sitting on the sand as several armed men in Bedouin clothing stood behind them.

The hostages are employees of two French firms, Areva and Vinci, which do business in the mining town of Arlit in Niger. French lawmakers approved a ban on full-face veils in September, citing security concerns and saying they violated women's human rights. The ban is scheduled to come into effect in the spring.

France has 3,750 troops in Afghanistan, according to NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Bin Laden's whereabouts are unknown, but in August, General David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, said he is "far buried" in the remote mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and that capturing him remains a key task.

Bin Laden is the world's most-wanted man, with the US offering a reward of up to USD 25 million for information leading to his capture.

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