Osama bin Laden threatened Americans in a new audio tape today, saying President Barack Obama inflamed hatred toward the US by ordering Pakistan to crack down on militants in Swat Valley and block Islamic law there.
Bin Laden claimed US pressure led to a campaign of "killing, fighting, bombing and destruction" that prompted the exodus of a million Muslims from Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan.
The message was broadcast for the first time on pan-Arab Al-Jazeera Television around the same time Obama touched down in Saudi Arabia at the start of a Mideast visit. He is trying repair relations with the Muslim world frayed under the previous Bush administration.
"Elderly people, children and women fled their homes and lived in tents as refugees after they have lived in dignity in their homes," bin Laden said. "Let the American people be ready to reap what the White House leaders have sown," he added.
"Obama and his administration have sown new seeds to increase hatred and revenge on America," bin Laden said. "The number of these seeds is equal to the number of displaced people from Swat Valley."
Pakistan's military offensive to expel the Taliban from Swat Valley was launched in late April after the militants abandoned a peace deal with the government that gave them control of the region.
The offensive, strongly backed by Washington, is seen as a test of Pakistan's resolve against militants in the northwestern border region near Afghanistan. Pakistanis tired of militant attacks in the country that have killed hundreds of civilians have also supported the campaign. But the fighting has uprooted some 3 million people.
Bin Laden focused entirely on Pakistan, claiming President Asif Ali Zardari was paid by the White House to start the crackdown.
But Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, promptly dismissed suggestions that anyone but al-Qaida and the Taliban are responsible for the refugee crisis in Pakistan, saying such an idea was "ludicrous."
"This entire problem began with al-Qa'ida and its associates and everybody in the world knows that. It's silly indeed to respond to such a ludicrous charge," Holbrooke said during a joint news conference with Zardari.
Al-Jazeera aired excerpts of the tape and did not say how it was obtained. The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately verified.
Bin Laden, whose last message was released in mid-March, has been sparing in his criticism of Obama in the past. In January, he said only that the US president had received a "heavy inheritance" from his predecessor.
However, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri has repeatedly condemned Obama, even using racial slurs.
Bin Laden's message followed just hours after al-Zawahri criticised Obama's upcoming speech tomorrow to the Islamic world in Cairo, saying it will not change the "bloody messages" the US military is sending Muslims in American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Reuse content