by Florian Flade
A new audio tape by Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden has been broadcasted by Al-Jazeera today. The message “From Osama Bin Laden to the French People” is directed to France and its President Sarkozy. Bin Laden calls for French troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Otherwise he says, al-Qaida will kill French hostages they are holding. The fate of French hostages in Northwest Africa is linked to French policies, Bin Laden states.
“President Nicolas Sarkozy’s refusal to remove his forces from Afghanistan is nothing but a green light to kill the French hostages,” Bin Laden says in the newest tape. “But we will not do that at the time that he determines to try and finish off with the repercussions of his position, which will cost him dearly inside and outside of France.”
Bin Laden goes on by saying: “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 countries.” France with “its doubt and budget deficit does not need a new front”, the al-Qaida leader warns.
Friday´s audio message is the second one in which Osama Bin Laden talks about French hostages held by al-Qaida. Although this time he does not explicitly mention the Niger hostages held by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, there is no doubt Bin Laden highlights the five French nationals kidnapped in West-Africa.
French hostages held by al-Qaida in Niger
In September 2010 seven workers of a French company including five French nationals where kidnapped in Niger. Al-Qaida´s North-African branch AQIM claimed responsibility and released pictures and audio tapes of the hostages. The group demanded the release of Muslim prisoners in France as well as a rescission of the Burqa-ban imposed in France in 2010. AQIM said the fate of the hostages is determined by the decision of the al-Qaida leadership. France should negotiate the release of its citizens with Bin Laden, AQIM said.
Recently two Frenchmen were kidnapped by AQIM from a restaurant in Niger. Both men were killed in a rescue attempt by French Special Forces.
Two French journalists are being held hostage by the Taliban since December 2009 when they were abducted in eastern Afghanistan. In video messages released by the Taliban, the journalists called upon President Sarkozy to meet the demands of the kidnappers.
Bin Laden´s new tape is a clear indiciation the al-Qaida leader wants to proof the small leadership of al-Qaida Central in the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal area is still in control of the whole organization. He responds to the North-African al-Qaida´s messages and therefore integrates the AQIM-branch into the network. The picture Bin Laden would like to present with this and previous tapes is:
1. The overseas branches of al-Qaida act according to the organization´s overall agenda of global jihad against the US, Israel and their interests and partners as well as against the traitor regimes of the Muslim world – but al-Qaida Central is still in control of the detail decisions.
2. The fate of French hostages in far-away Niger is decided by Bin Laden himself in the mountains of Waziristan. He as the leader and founder of Al-Qaida is still in charge of the network.
3. “It is all up to you” – he points towards France´s President and explains his refusal of withdrawing troops from Muslim lands will result in the execution of French hostages. This way Bin Laden plays the ball to the French government which followed a very clear line in the past of not negotiating with al-Qaida. Rather France is still trying to use its military might (special forces in North-West-Africa) to rescue kidnapped French citizens. With his statement Bin Laden tells the French leader: you will have the blood of your citizens on your hand.