PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that France was taking the threat from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seriously after a purported leader of the Islamist group called for attacks on French interests throughout the world.
“We are taking very seriously the threat from AQIM, which this reminds us of,” Hollande told a news conference when asked about the clip in which a bearded man named as Abu Obeida Yusef al-Annabi, a senior AQIM militant, made the threat.
The video clip, an audio recording in Arabic over a photograph of the AQIM leader, was posted earlier in the day on YouTube, but its authenticity could not immediately be verified.
The speaker said France’s military intervention against Islamist fighters in Mali was cause for vengeance in the form of holy war by “every able Muslim”.
“People of Islam in the different corners of the earth, with the renewed French crusade and its invasion of a Muslim land, we call upon you to fully mobilize and move to support your brothers in any way you can,” the recording said.
“It’s your duty now to repel this invasion by targeting French interests everywhere because since the day this aggression started their interests have become legitimate (targets),” it continued.
Al Qaeda-linked groups have made a number of threats against France since Hollande sent troops into Mali in January after the Malian government asked for help in driving back Islamist rebels who controlled parts of the north and began to move south.
Officials in Paris have suggested the rebels in Mali may be shifting toward classic al Qaeda tactics after a French soldier there was killed last week when his car hit a roadside bomb.
Reporting by Sophie Louet and Nicholas Vinocur in Paris and Mahmoud Habboush in Dubai; Editing by Jon Hemming