The French foreign minister has described Osama Bin Laden’s security threat to France as “unacceptable”, saying the country remains on high alert.
The Al Qaeda leader warns that French people will be killed and abducted, citing the ban on the full Muslim veil and the presence of French troops in Afghanistan.
The authorities have confirmed the authenticity of yesterday’s taped broadcast but say it changes nothing.
“There is a date set by NATO in the framework of the new strategy, that’s the beginning of 2011,” said the Defence Minister Hervé Morin. “In 2011 we’re going to hand over a series of districts to the Afghans. At that moment, there could be the first troop movements and the first withdrawals of allied forces from Afghanistan.”
The Defence Minister said Islamist threats over French troops were common, and there was no link between Bin Laden’s message and the planned withdrawal.
The French government also says Bin Laden’s message makes no difference to its efforts to free the seven hostages – five of them French – who were kidnapped in Niger.
Al Qaeda’s north African wing claimed responsibility, in an escalation of hostilities between the militant group and France.