Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Al-Qaeda declares war on Europe as deadline passes

AFP , DUBAI

A purported al-Qaeda statement has singled out Italy as it threatened Europe with a "bloody war" following the expiry of a July 15 deadline set by Osama bin Laden for European states to pull troops out of Muslim countries.

"Today, we declare a bloody war on you. We will not stop our raids until you return to reason," said the statement posted yesterday on a militant Islamist Web site and signed "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades -- al-Qaeda."

The authenticity of the statement, on the site www.islamic-minbar.com/forum/, could not be verified.

"After the expiry of the ultimatum by our sheikh Osama bin Laden ... and because you have not returned to reason, we declare a violent war on you as well as your people ... who, by their silence, support you," it said.

An audiotaped statement issued April 15 by the al-Qaeda terror chief gave European governments three months to withdraw their troops from Muslim states.

The ultimatum was later authenticated by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades have claimed responsibility for the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, which left 191 people dead, as well as for the November bombings in Istanbul that killed 25 people.

Abu Hafs al-Masri headed al-Qaeda military operations until he was killed in the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The latest statement particularly targeted "the Italian government and its head Berlusconi, the vile, for their shameful and despicable attitude and for following the chief of infidels, America."

"Wait for us Berlusconi, with your other allies and supporters. Wait for the threat which we addressed to you [earlier] and that we address to Europe today," it warned.

"We will make sure that a bloodbath sweeps you away. It is you that will punish your people. And infidel Europe will, by its following of America, punish its people.

"We will strike the towns of Europe and we will start with you, Berlusconi," the message claimed, warning European leaders that war "will be bloody until you return to reason."

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