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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 03:15 GMT
New 'Bin Laden tape' threatens EU
Grab from website showing alleged Bin Laden message 19/3/08
The website showed a still of bin Laden and English translation

In a new audio message purportedly from Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader threatens the EU over the re-printing of a cartoon offensive to Muslims.

The voice on it says the cartoon, re-published recently in all major Danish newspapers, was part of a crusade involving Pope Benedict XVI.

The drawing, first published in 2005, depicts the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.

The voice on the audio has not yet been verified as belonging to Bin Laden.

The message comes on the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says that the message was probably released to not to mark that anniversary, but rather the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Muhammad, which Sunni Muslims mark on Thursday.

It appeared on a Islamist website that has carried al-Qaeda messages in the past.

Over the audio is a graphic with a still image of Bin Laden holding an AK-47 and bearing the logo of al-Sahab, the media wing of al-Qaeda. There is a written translation of the message in English.

'Crowd pleaser'

John Pike, director of the defence think tank GlobalSecurity.org, said bin Laden had chosen to talk about the cartoon in an effort to remain relevant and provide direction to followers.

"His judgement is that it's a consistent crowd-pleaser, and that if he has any hope of getting people stirred up, this is probably a good way to try to do it."

Last month, Denmark's leading newspapers reprinted one of 12 cartoons that first angered many Muslims when they were originally published in September 2005.

Anger in the Muslim world peaked in 2006 as newspapers in other countries published the cartoons.

If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions
Words attributed to Osama bin Laden

Some of the protests turned violent and led to the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and dozens of deaths in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan.

The Danish newspapers decided to republish the most controversial drawing after Danish intelligence said it had uncovered a plot to kill the cartoonist.

The re-printed drawing shows the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. Islamic law forbids any representation of the Prophet.

The message attributed to bin Laden says the attacks of Europeans on women and children "paled [in comparison] when you went overboard in your unbelief and... went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings.

"This is the greatest misfortune and the most dangerous," the voice says.

"If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions".

It is not clear when the message was recorded. The last audio message attributed to Bin Laden appeared in November but he has not been seen on video since October 2004.

He is believed to be in hiding on the rugged border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.





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