[xtypo_dropcap]O[/xtypo_dropcap]sama Bin Laden said in a new audio tape first published by Al-Jazeera television that if France does not pull out of Afghanistan, French hostages held by Al-Qaeda operatives will die. His comments were met with resistance from the French government.
The French government said it will not listen to the requests of the al-Qaeda leader, who is presumably hiding on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and said it would stay committed to its military mission.
“We are determined to pursue our action in favor of the Afghan people, with our allies,” Bernard Valero, French Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the New York Times.
The voice in the recording, which was identified as Bin Laden by several media outlets including AFP, Reuters, and The Associated Press, said: “We repeat the same message to you: the release of your prisoners in the hands of our brothers is linked to the withdrawal of your soldiers from our country.”
The Times reported that Bin Laden reportedly made threats to France in October, decrying the ban of facial veils in public.
Last September, seven people, of whom five were French, were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Niger. Several more French nationals have been kidnapped in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden did not refer to specific hostages. However, Al-Jazeera reported that he was referring to the hostages held in Niger.
Offical Calls for Withdrawal
On Friday, a senior French foreign affairs official said that France should withdraw its 3,500 or so troops from the country to help push Afghanistan toward being democratic, according to Reuters, despite what Valero said.
"I am convinced that the beginning of a gradual withdrawal of international troops from the summer of 2011 would keep the pressure on the Afghan authorities by indicating that our commitment is not unlimited," stated Axel Poniatowski from the ruling UMP party, according to Reuters.
In the past several months, the Eiffel Tower has a few received bomb threats, prompting the evacuation of the area.
And Defense Minister Alain Juppe said that French presence is a "trap" for both itself and Afghanistan, Reuters reported.
The country is expected to start withdrawals in 2012.