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Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bin Laden issues warning to Europe

March 20, 2008

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— Osama bin Laden, in a new audio message posted Wednesday, condemned the publication of drawings that he said insulted the Prophet Muhammad and warned Europeans of a "severe" reaction to come.

The message, which appeared on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaida statements in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing al-Sahab, showed a still image of bin Laden aiming an assault rifle.

"The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," said a voice believed to be bin Laden's, without specifying what action would be taken.

The five-minute message, bin Laden's first this year, made no mention of the fifth anniversary Wednesday of the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.

It came as the Muslim world marks the Prophet Muhammad's birthday today and amid the reigniting of a two-year-old controversy over some Danish cartoons deemed by Muslims to be insulting. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet.

Bin Laden described the drawings as taking place in the framework of a "new Crusade" against Islam, in which he said the pope has played a "large and lengthy role."

On Feb. 13, Danish newspapers republished a cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban to show their commitment to freedom of speech after police said they had uncovered a plot to kill the artist.

Danish intelligence service said the reprinting of the cartoon had brought "negative attention" to Denmark and may have increased the risk to Danes at home and abroad.

The original 12 cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper triggered major protests in Muslim countries in 2006. There have been renewed protests in the last month.

Ben Venzke, the head of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors militant messages, called Wednesday's message a "clear threat against EU member countries and an indicator of a possible upcoming significant attack."

In Wednesday's message, bin Laden also attacked his long-time nemesis, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and said he could have ended the entire dispute over the cartoons if he had wanted because of his influence with European governments.

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