(WASHINGTON) -- In a newly released audiotape message to the French people, al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden threatens death to French hostages held by an al Qaeda affiliate in Africa unless French troops leave Afghanistan.
In the message, Bin Laden's second to the French people in less than six months, he says that by keeping troops in Afghanistan, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has given the "green light" to "kill your captives immediately." Bin Laden does not name the hostages but is apparently referring to five French citizens who were working for the French nuclear giant Areva in Niger when they were kidnapped in September.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the abduction, and has released pictures of the men in captivity.
French ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero responded to the taped threat, telling reporters the French government would not change their stance on Afghanistan, and that their presence was meant to help the Afghan people.
"We are determined to pursue our action in favor of the Afghan people with our allies," he said.
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