France 'determined' in Afghanistan despite Laden threat

21st January 2011, Comments 0 comments

France is "determined" to keep troops in Afghanistan despite a threat from Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden linking their mission to the fate of French hostages, the foreign ministry said Friday.

"We are determined to pursue our action in favour of the Afghan people with our allies" in the NATO-led ISAF force that is fighting the ousted Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters.

In a tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera television on Friday, bin Laden said the release of French hostages depends on a pullout of French soldiers from Afghanistan and warned Paris of a "high price" for its policies.

Two French journalists were seized along with three Afghan colleagues in December 2009 east of Kabul. Several other French hostages were seized last year in Niger in a kidnapping claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group AQIM.

On the tape bin Laden, addressing the French people, said: "The refusal of your president to withdraw from Afghanistan is the result of his obedience of America, and this refusal is a green light to kill your prisoners."

He warned that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's stand would "cost him and you a high price on different fronts, inside and outside France."

Valero said the authenticity of the message was being checked.

"We are working without cease for the freeing of our two countrymen held hostage in Afghanistan and for other French hostages in the world," Valero said.

On October 27 bin Laden warned in a video that France's security depended on it pulling out of Afghanistan and an end to what he called its "injustices" against Muslims.

And in a video broadcast in April, the Taliban threatened to kill the French journalists, cameraman Stephane Taponier and reporter Herve Ghesquiere of France 3 television, unless their own prisoners were released.

© 2011 AFP

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