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Bin Laden links fate of French hostages to Afghanistan withdrawal

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said the release of French hostages in Niger depends on French forces leaving Afghanistan, according to a audio message broadcast by the Al Jazeera television network.

Osama bin Laden

This is the second time a recording from Bin Laden has threatened France

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Friday warned France to remove its troops from Muslim lands or else risk the lives of French hostages in Niger, according to a new recording aired by television station Al Jazeera.

"President Nicolas Sarkozy's refusal to remove his forces from Afghanistan is nothing but a green light for killing the French hostages," said the voice, which was attributed to bin Laden.

"The release of your hostages from the hands of our brothers depends on you removing your soldiers from our lands."

French soldiers in Afghanistan

French troops are part of the international NATO force in Afghanistan

This is the second tape in which the terrorist leader has apparently blasted French policy and linked the French presence in Afghanistan to the kidnapping of nationals in Niger.

Seven foreigners, including five French employees were kidnapped in Niger in September and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility.

France is 'determined'

In response to the threat, French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the tape had not been authenticated but expressed "France's commitment to the international force in Afghanistan."

"We are determined to continue with our mission for the good of the Afghan people together with our allies," Valero said.

The September kidnapping was an escalation of the hostilities between AQIM and France, after the militant group executed a 78-year-old French hostage in July, and the deaths of two Frenchmen in Niger in early January.

The men were found dead after a failed rescue bid by French troops.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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