An audio message released by Osama bin Laden on Friday warned that French hostages held by Islamic militants will be killed if President Nicolas Sarkozy does not withdraw French forces from Afghanistan.
The message is said to be a response to the strict measures incorporated by the French government to abolish militancy in Afghanistan and the neighboring areas.
The recorded voice, identified to be that of bin Laden states that, President Nicolas Sarkozy's refusal to remove his forces from Afghanistan is nothing but a green light for killing the French hostages. The release of your prisoners in the hands of our brothers is linked to the withdrawal of your soldiers from our country.
The tape was broadcasted Friday on Al Jazeera, an international news network headquartered in Doha, Qatar.
There is no clear detail about the exact number of French hostages held by the members of the Islamist militant group, Al Qaeda, headed by bin Laden.
The Telegraph UK states that France is believed to have eight of its nationals held by Islamist radicals in various parts of the world, including five in Niger, two in Afghanistan and one in Somalia. Two more Frenchmen, Antoine de Leocour and Vincent Delory, were killed in Niger earlier this month, probably by their captors, during an attempt to rescue them.
Apart from this, two French journalists named Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere have been held in Afghanistan with three local colleagues since 2009. Although there have been several threats in the past to kill them, a video released in November 2010 showed them alive.
The French government, however, seems undeterred and is determined to keep its military mission in Afghanistan alive.