PARIS – A newly released audio tape of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden threatening France appears to be authentic, the French Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
The voice on the audio tape threatens to kill French citizens to avenge their country's support for the war in Afghanistan and in revenge for a new French law that will ban burqa-like Muslim veils. The audiotape was obtained by the Al-Jazeera television station.
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The Foreign Ministry says the tape's "authenticity can be considered established based on initial verifications."
The message "only confirms that reality of the terror threat," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
A series of terror warnings has put France and other European countries on high alert in recent weeks, prompting the U.S. State Department to advise American citizens living or traveling in Europe to take more precautions.
Speculation on the source of a potential terror threat in France has focused on a group called al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
That group, an offshoot of bin Laden's network, 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 slept in their villas in the uranium mining town of Arlit.
Valero said France was "fully mobilized" to secure their release.
There are about 4,000 French troops deployed in and near Afghanistan. France has also passed a law that will ban the wearing of face-covering burqa-style Muslim veils in public starting in April. Al-Qaida had spoken out against the veil measure before it became law.