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Bin Laden demands France withdraw from Afghanistan
CAIRO (AP) — Osama bin Laden demanded that France withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the release of French hostages being held by al Qaeda affiliates, according to an audio message broadcast on an Arabic news channel Friday.
France has about 3,850 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission fighting the Taliban. French forces are deployed mainly in the Kapisa and Surobi districts north and east of Kabul, the Afghan capital.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Bin Laden’s message was still being authenticated. “We are determined to continue our efforts on behalf of the Afghan people, with our allies,”Mr. Valero said.
“Your president’s rejection is a result of being a hireling to America and is a green light to kill the hostages. … His stand will cost you a high price on different aspects inside or outside France,” he said.
The al Qaeda leader questioned why the French would consider the resistance against Nazi German troops occupying their nation in World War II to be heroic while the fight against French and other foreign troops in Afghanistan is labeled terrorism.
“Why do you judge in a double standard?” he said.
“The size of your debts and the weakness of your budget will not allow you to open a new front,” he said.
Al Qaeda has often sent audio messages to Al Jazeera for broadcast.
Greg Keller contributed to this report from Paris.
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