Osama bin Laden, the elusive lead of the international terrorist network al-Qaida, made a warning to the European Union in his latest audio message. World’s most wanted terrorist promised to severely punish Europe for the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
Bin Laden said that the drawings which appeared in the press of Denmark and other countries of the European Union were a part of a “new Crusade” against Muslims.
The image illustrating the audio message shows Bin Laden holding a Kalashnikov in his hands. It became Osama bin Laden’s first public message over the recent four months.
The five-minute message was posted on the website of Islamic radicals, which Bin Laden previously used for similar purposes.
"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.
"You went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings," he said. "This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe."
Danish newspapers published the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad again in the middle of February. In 2006 those cartoons triggered a wave of massive and violet protests in the Islamic world. Journalists from 17 Danish newspapers and magazines said that it was their reaction to the arrest of several Muslim extremists suspected of plotting a murder of one of the authors of those drawings – Kurt Westergaard (born in 1935).
An attempt to kill the cartoonist was perceived as an aspiration to undermine the democratic culture in Europe. Journalists from several British and Dutch newspapers supported their counterparts from Denmark.
As a result, anti-Danish rallies and demonstrations swept across Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Thailand and Azerbaijan.
Muslims widely saw the cartoons as an insult, depicting the prophet as violent. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Ben Venzke, the head of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors militant messages, called Wednesday's video a "clear threat against EU member countries and an indicator of a possible upcoming significant attack."
Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and security analyst, said bin Laden was likely too isolated to organize an attack. But the al-Qaida leader may be hoping to use anger over the cartoons to inspire violence, he said.
"Even if he has not got the capacity (to launch an attack), he will try to infuse hatred. He is trying to whip up the anguish and anger in the Islamic world and capitalize on that. He is lending his support to that movement and saying, 'We are with you,"' Masood said.
Last year, a U.S. national intelligence estimate warned that al-Qaida had been able to regroup in Pakistan's tribal regions after the government hatched peace deals with Taliban militants which later collapsed. slamic extremists have expanded their sway in the past year in the lawless border region with Afghanistan. Taliban militants, some with links to al-Qaida, are blamed for a growing campaign of violence that has spread from the northwest to major cities nationwide, mostly targeting security forces, the AP reports.
The al-Qaida leader's tape appeared to have been recorded since December because bin Laden refers to revelations made that month by the British press that former Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed to halt a fraud investigation against aerospace company BAE Systems PLC in part because he feared it would jeopardize an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Bin Laden also criticized the "aggressive policies" of President Bush.
"How it saddens us that you target our villages with your bombing: those modest mud villages which have collapsed onto our women and children," he said, addressing Europeans. "All of this (you do) without right and in conformity with your oppressive ally who - along with his aggressive policies - is about to depart the White House."
On Wednesday, Bush praised Sunni tribal leaders for rising up against al-Qaida in Iraq and said that has led to similar uprising across the country. All that, combined with a strategic influx of U.S. troops last year, has "opened the door to a major victory in the broader war on terror," Bush said.