Usama bin Laden threatened Americans in a new audio tape Wednesday, saying President Barack Obama inflamed hatred toward the U.S. by ordering Pakistan to crack down on militants in Swat Valley and block Islamic law there.
Bin Laden claimed U.S. 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.
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C. Holbrooke will visit Pakistan from June 3 to June 5, and will be leading the delegation of U.S. officials from the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and Department of Defense.
He is traveling at the request of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to assess the welfare of the people displaced by the security operations being carried out by Pakistani authorities against insurgent extremists.
House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor said the recording is a reminder of the dangers U.S. troops face.
“Obvioulsy that underscores the threat that continues to fester out there against our troops that are in the region,” he said. “And frankly the threats that our allies face every day. Again we want to support the effort of this administration to secure our troops.”
Bin Laden focused entirely on Pakistan, claiming President Asif Ali Zardari was paid by the White House to start the crackdown.
Al-Jazeera aired excerpts of the tape and did not say how it was obtained.
FBI officials say that — while the tape may appear real — investigators are reviewing the recording for authenticity and any other information that may help them.
While there has never been a fake Usama bin Laden tape, officials will still be checking it for authenticiy. The timing of this tape is not a coincidence given the timing of the president’s Mideast trip.
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 U.S. 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 criticized Obama’s upcoming speech on Thursday to the Islamic world in Cairo, saying it will not change the “bloody messages” the U.S. military is sending Muslims in American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.